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Bebop Spoken There

Branford Marsalis: "You talk to the old guys about it [52nd St.], and they say the music part was great. Every other aspect of it [pay, hours, conditions] sucked" - (DownBeat, May 2019).

Archive

Today Sunday April 21

Afternoon

Jazz

Vieux Carré Hot 4 - Spanish City, Spanish City Plaza, Whitley Bay NE26 1BG. 12 noon. Free.

Blues

Beefy La Slap - Billy Bootleggers, Nelson St., Newcastle NE1 5AN. 3:00pm. Free.

Alex Fawcett Band - Tyne Bar, Maling St., Newcastle NE6 1LP. Tel: 0191 265 2550. 4:00pm. Free

Evening

Jazz

East Coast Jazz - Exchange, Howard Street, North Shields NE30 1SE. Tel: 0191 258 4111. 6:00pm. Free. Monthly jam session.

Swing Manouche - Black Bull, Bridge St., Blaydon NE21 4JJ. Tel: 0191 414 2846. 7:30pm. £7.00. Blaydon Jazz Club. Note new, regular start time.

Blues

Sour Mash Trio - Billy Bootleggers, Nelson St., Newcastle NE1 5AN. 9:00pm. Free.

To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

CD Review: Ralph Alessi – Imaginary Friends

Ralph Alessi (trumpet); Ravi Coltrane (tenor saxophone, sopranino); Andy Milne (piano); Drew Gress (double bass); Mark Ferber (drums).
(Review by Hugh C).

Imaginary Friends is this particular quintet’s first release since 2010.  The band had been working hard developing the material on the road before arriving at La Buissonne, Pernes-les-Fontaines to record with Manfred Eicher.  Alessi and Coltrane have been long-time friends and musical associates since their time as students at California Institute of Arts in the late 1980s, both are now based in New York.

This is a proper CD recording – just over one hour’s music, with none of that pseudo-vinyl 40-minute nonsense!  It comprises nine tracks, all Alessi compositions. 

Iram Issela (named after Alessi’s young daughter) commences with a chordal progression on solo piano, to which Alessi adds atmospheric trumpet, followed by Gress and Ferber.  This is quintessential ECM stuff with sonorous overtones from Coltrane’s tenor in the central section.

Oxide reduces the music to its individual chemical constituents, slowly converging to form a smoke-like wraith of melody, in gaseous form.  Did I detect a bit of rust on the piano?  Prepared piano is quoted as being used by Milne on some of the tracks.  The wraith disappears as mysteriously as it came. 

Improper Authorities jolts the listener out of their induced trance with an almost drum ‘n’ bass-like rhythm set up by Ferber and Gress.  Coltrane’s tenor and Milne’s piano provide the melodic surface layer, joined later by trumpet.

Pittance reverts to the more meditative vibe of the first two tracks and again features prepared piano.  An extended drum solo by Ferber introduces Fun Room, joined by piano introducing a bitonal percussive theme, then improvisatory trumpet playing by Alessi - the musicians are having a great time in here!  Coltrane is finally allowed to join the fun near the end.

The title track, Imaginary Friends, brings the pace down again.  Atmospheric cymbal work with a simple repetitive piano melody and subtle arco bass introduces the concept.  The horns join the assembly with a relatively free-style overlay, but a still discernibly melodic whole is the end result.  These friends may be imaginary, but they are definitely friends. 

Around the Corner takes us back to the more characteristic (for ECM) sound of trumpet with added reverb, floating over a rhythmic and subtly melodic underlay provided by piano-bass-drums.  We are taken straight to the centre of the Melee – somewhat reminiscent of being next to a metaphorical Arc de Triomphe, surrounded by fast-moving and noisy circulation.  It takes nearly four minutes before there is a gap in the traffic and we can cross, exhausted, to a café on the Champs-Élysées for a temporary respite, before re-entering the melée towards the end.  Good Boy, a beautiful duet in rubato fashion between Alessi and Milne, closes the proceedings.

I really enjoyed this CD, and highly recommend it.  Imaginary Friends is available now (ECM 2629) and is also featured on a popular streaming site to try before you buy.
Hugh C

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