RALPH ALESSI AND THIS AGAINST THAT – Wiry Strong

Clean Feed

The cover – picturing a lean and mean bare-knuckle fighter from an ancient era – is attractive in itself, however the tunes performed by this quintet are both refined and functional besides the “wiry strong” character they are indubitably gifted with. Leader Ralph Alessi is an archetypal specimen of egalitarian coordinator: scores that sound like reduced arrangements for a bigger orchestra, a sensation of bodily fulfilment elicited by the flawless distribution of acoustic weights and hues. He’s a trumpeter whose level of coolness equals that of rational lyricism; not a note out of place, a solid yet soft tone, a reassuring presence when necessary. Ravi Coltrane’s parallel contribution is unpretentious, totally distant from the noticeable tendencies to overblown soliloquy affecting 90% (and counting) of jazz saxophonists. We are not swearing to the gods when saying that a fraction of an illustrious DNA emerges quite clearly during his solos: check “Station Wagon Trip” or “A Dollar In Your Shoe” to get an idea. Pianist Andy Milne is a contrapuntal regenerator and a master painter of melancholy, calmly touching the listener’s inside strings while linking the horn/reed tandem in introspective sameness, “Halves And Wholes” a magnificent case in point. The rhythm section consists of bassist Drew Gress and drummer Mark Ferber: their importance in the group’s economy is clear, as they sustain several aspects of the interplay with a combination of crepuscular awareness (dig the arco drone in “Pudgy”) and resilient propulsion, thoroughly managing the music’s overall drive. It’s a lengthy album at over 71 minutes, but there’s no finding a weak moment throughout, including the short improvisational tracks interspersed with the longer ones.

Posted in Uncategorized