Redwood Jazz Alliance

Ralph Alessi & This Against That
Monday, November 9, 8 p.m.| Kate Buchanan Room, HSU

"If Alessi were a baseball pitcher, he would be described as 'sneaky fast,' because he has the kind of drop-dead trumpet chops that make impossibly intricate lines sound relaxed."
—Thomas Conrad, Jazz Times

“Ralph Alessi is a forward-thinking bandleader whose work...justifies the buzz surrounding him: [it's] serene, articulate, playful.”
—Charles Farrell, eMusic

(For music and links, scroll to the bottom of this page)

Ralph Alessi
(Above photo courtesy of Peter Gannushkin / DOWNTOWNMUSIC.NET)
This Against That at Earshot Jazz

Ralph Alessi was born in San Rafael, the son of classical trumpeter Joe Alessi.  (Brother Joe Jr. is principal trombonist of the New York Philharmonic, and Ralph himself freelanced with the San Francisco Symphony as he was coming up through the ranks.)  But after taking degrees in jazz trumpet and bass—he studied under the legendary Charlie Haden at CalArts—he lit out for New York, where he swiftly became an ubiquitous presence on the downtown scene and a leading figure in jazz education.

Alessi's longest apprenticeship as a sideman was in various ensembles led by alto saxophonist and “M-Base” founder Steve Coleman, but he’s also been a frequent collaborator of a host of RJA favorites—Don Byron, Ravi Coltrane, Uri Caine, Fred Hersch, James Carney, Jason Moran, Drew Gress, Scott Colley, Brad Shepik—most of whom have also played and recorded in Alessi’s own groups.  (In fact, Ralph is spending much of October on the road with ensembles led by Caine, Shepik, and Dafnis Prieto.)

As a bandleader in his own right, Alessi has recorded five albums of originals which draw on everything from post-bop to neo-classical, while deftly treading—and occasionally crossing—the line between “inside” and “outside” jazz.  Ralph prefers simply to think of his tunes as “organic”: he uses whatever fits his needs, including expanded forms, complex rhythms, and a broad harmonic spectrum, to explore the confluence of composition and improvisation.  Jazz Times called his writing “as clean and airy and sophisticated and disciplined as post-modern progressive jazz gets” and named the group's debut outing one of the ten best recordings of 2002, while All About Jazz dubbed its 2007 follow-up Look “an outstanding work of intellect and fire.” 

Although Alessi is an adjunct faculty member at NYU, his most significant achievement as an educator may be founding and directing Brooklyn’s School for Improvision (SIM), which is playing an influential role in development of jazz’s next generation.  Instructors at the school constitute an all-star lineup of prominent jazz progressives, but what really distinguishes SIM is what jazz writer Chinen describes as its “determined spirit of collectivity”:   the school’s mission statement asserts that “Students (through their own experiences together) can learn a great deal for and from themselves and needn’t always wait passively for instructors to provide them with answers.”

This Against That’s current roster includes several unsung A-list sidemen:

  • Tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby has been a member of Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra and Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band and counts bassists Drew Gress and William Parker and percussionists John Hollenbeck and Nasheet Waits among his regular collaborators. The New York Times put his debut album, Sabino, among its top ten jazz records of 2000.  
  • Toronto-born pianist Andy Milne is another M-Base veteran (he’s gigged with Greg Osby and Cassandra Wilson in addition to a long stint with Steve Coleman) whose influences include Bartok (Bela), Mitchell (Joni), and Wonder (Stevie), as well as Monk, Tatum, and Nichols.  He was voted “Rising Star Keyboardist” in the 2004 DownBeat Readers Poll, and his band “Dapp Theory” blends jazz with funk and hip-hop.  
  • Bassist Ben Street studied under two masters—Dave Holland and Miroslav Vitous—at the New England Conservatory of Music, and a partial list of his many credits includes tours and recordings with Danilo Perez, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Roswell Rudd, Paul Motian, David Sanchez, James Moody, Clark Terry, and Sam Rivers.  With pianist Ethan Iverson and saxophonist Mark Turner, he's a member of drummer Billy Hart's latest quartet.
  • Drummer Mark Ferber was raised in San Francisco and took a BA in Geography at UCLA while studying classical percussion with Mitchell Peters and drums with Billy Higgins.  Since moving to New York, he has worked and played with Lee Konitz, Norah Jones, Fred Hersch, and Larry Goldings, among many others.

Tickets ($15 General Admission, $10 Students & Seniors) are available here at our website, or at Missing Link Records, People's Records and The Works.

Ralph Alessi and This Against That will also present a master class for invited high school and university students on Monday, November 9th at 1:00 p.m. in Room 131 of HSU's Music Building. The General Public are welcome to attend as spectators.

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  • Download "At the Seams" from the 2007 album Look
  • Use the player to the left to listen to a stream of music by Ralph Alessi and This Against That. Alternatively, you may open a player in a new window by clicking the "Launch Player" button below:

Meet the ComposerThis event is funded in part by Meet the Composer's MetLife Creative Connections program.

Additional support for this show comes from Arcata Arts, The Arcata Eye, KHSU & KHSR-FM, Lady Anne Victorian Inn, Libation Wine Shop & Wine Bar, Sushi Spot, and Wildwood Music.

HSU SealMonday afternoon's master class is made possible through the generosity of HSU's Office of the President, Provost Robert Snyder, College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Interim Dean Kenneth Ayoob, and the Department of Music.

If you or your business would like to consider sponsoring a Redwood Jazz Alliance event and/or advertising in our concert programs, please e-mail us or visit our Underwriting & Donations page.

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