Ralph Alessi is someone I have greatly admired since I first heard him play at the Sunset club in Paris in 2003. At the time I was heavily in to the M-Base scene and the music of Steve Coleman. I had heard of Ralph but not really had the chance to check him out. The gig in Paris featured Ravi Coltrane, Andy Milne, Drew Gress and Gerald Cleaver and they were playing Ralph’s music. I could hear all the rhythmic complexity, and some of the harmonic and melodic devices that are found in Steve Coleman ‘s music, but it seemed to me to be much more open and organic. I was blown away.
It’s kind of hard to explain how I feel about his playing and his writing. It seems to be a perfect balance of intellect, sophistication and pure heart. It’s so soulful and really melodic and so full of humour, too. It also seems to encompass the wide variety of musical situations he plays in regularly. Last year I saw him play at the Village Vanguard in New York with Fred Hirsch ‘s quintet alongside tenorist Tony Malaby. It was a really beautiful gig and great to hear Ralph playing in a relatively straight ahead context. And I must mention one of my absolute favourite albums – Drew Gress‘ 7 Black Butterflies (Koch, 2005) – featuring Alessi with Tim Berne, Uri Caine and Tom Rainey. The first thing that grabs you is just the sound, and, in particular the trumpet. It’s so warm and fat, his playing is so free and open. Really exciting. But when you hear Alessi’s own albums, whether in duo with drummer/trumpeter Shane Endsley or with is groups This Against That or the Modular Theatre, you can hear all of these influences and more. It’s imaginative writing and inspired improvising but what really comes across is that it is just compelling music that sounds great!
On the gigs, which will also feature Michael Janisch on bass and Dave Smith on drums, we are going to be playing a mixture of Ralph’s and my own music with a few other things thrown in. My music has been influenced by Ralph and I am really looking forward to hearing him play it. But I’m very excited to be playing Alessi’s tunes with the man himself.
Monday July 19th – Ram Jam, Kingston
Tuesday July 20th – Dempsey’s, Cardiff
Wednesday 21st – Pizza Express, Dean Street London
(only central London date) – ADMISSION £5 with student/ musician discount
Thursday July 22nd – Broxbourne Golf Club
Friday July 23rd – Manchester Jazz Festival
Saturday July 24th – Jazz Bar, Edinburgh
Sunday July 25th – Vale Bar, Glasgow
Jim Hart’s latest CD Narrada, with Ivo Neame on alto saxophone, Jasper Høiby on bass and Dave Smith on drums is on Loop Records. The tour has received support from Jazz Services’ National Touring Scheme.