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Bebop Spoken There

Cécile McLorin Salvant: "She [Melissa Aldana] makes us realise how terrible it is to be complacent." - (DownBeat July 2019)

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Today Thursday June 20

Afternoon

Jazz

Vieux Carré Jazzmen - Holystone, Whitley Rd., Holystone NE27 0DA. Tel: 0191 266 6173. 1:00pm. Free.

Evening

Jazz

Jeremy McMurray & the Pocket Jazz Orchestra - Arc, Dovecot St., Stockton on Tees TS18 1LL. Tel: 01642 525199. 7:00pm. £12.00. + £0.10. bf. ‘Jazz & Tapas’ - booking essential.

Ruth Lambert Quartet - St James' & St Basil's Church, Fenham Hall Drive, Fenham, Newcastle NE4 9EJ. 7:30pm. £8.00.

Heller-Glendinning: Billie Meets Kurt - The Globe, Railway Street, Newcastle NE4 7AD. 7:30pm (doors). £6.00. (£3.00. student).

Acoustic Infusion - The Forum, Borough Road, Darlington DL1 1SG. Tel: 01325 363135. 7:30pm. £5.00. Line-up: Alan Thompson (tenor sax); Rick Laughlin (piano); Bruce Rollo (double bass); Ian Halford (drums). Now Abbie Finn on drums.

Durham University Concert Band + Grollingwood Big Band - Durham Town Hall, Market Place, Durham DH1 3NJ. 7:30pm. £10.00., £9.00., £8.00.

Durham University Big Band - Black Swan Bar, Newcastle Arts Centre, Westgate Road, Newcastle NE1 1SG. Tel: 0191 222 9882. 8:00pm. £6.00. (£5.00 concs.). JNE.

Tees Hot Club w. Gus Smith (vocals); Donna Hewitt (tenor sax), Dave Archbold (keys) - Dormans Club, Oxford Road, Middlesbrough TS5 5DT. Tel: 01642 823813. 8:30pm. Free.

Maine Street Jazzmen - Sunniside Social Club, Hollywell Lane, Sunniside, Gateshead NE16 5NA. Tel: 0191 488 7347. 8:30pm. Free.

New Orleans Preservation Jazz Band - Oxbridge, Oxbridge Lane, Stockton on Tees TS18 4AW. 8:30pm. £2.50.

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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