Reviews that mention Ralph Alessi

RALPH ALESSI AND MODULAR THEATRE

Hissy Fit
(Love Slave Records lvslv 102)

There's a thin line between self-confidence and self-indulgence and Ralph Alessi crosses it often on this less-than-stellar release.

Trumpeter Alessi, one of the younger "downtowners", who in the past has done excellent work on Uri Caine's live Mahler project (on Winter & Winter), seems to think that everything he and his band does is worth preserving. Thus this record of a gig at Rochester, N.Y.'s Bop Shop, which tellingly includes no audience applause.

Most of the tunes, while affable enough, are certainly not memorable and soon degenerate into aimless riffs -- when they're allowed to develop that is. Five out of seven are saddled with the banal prose/poetry of one Carl "Kokayi" Walker. Walker whose nickname may be pronounced like that of Ed "Kookie" Burns, another arbitrator of the hip (1950s beatnik version) in his 77 Sunset Strip incarnation.

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June 6, 2016

Michael Formanek Ensemble Kolossus

The Distance
ECM 2484

The Who

Zoo

Auricle Aur 14+15

Carlberg/Morris/Niggenkemper/Gray

Cosmopolitan Greetings

Red Piano RPR 4699-4419-2

Eric Platz

Life After Life

Allos Documents 012

Florian Hoefner

Luminosity

Origin Records 82706

Something In The Air: Those Who Teach Can Also Play

By Ken Waxman

As shibboleths go, the hoary “those who can do, those who can’t teach,” must rank at the very top of the list. Besides libelling the majority of educators who devote themselves to the task of imparting knowledge to students, it negates the activities of those who teach and do. Here are some musicians who maintain a full-time teaching carer along with consistent gigging. MORE

August 11, 2014

Peter Epstein Quartet

Polarities
Songlines SGL-1607-2

By Ken Waxman

Fittingly titled, the polarities implicit on this CD are the equal magnetic pulls of inventive soloing from alto and soprano saxophonist Peter Epstein and trumpeter/cornetist Ralph Alessi. Epstein, who teaches at the University of Nevada, Reno, balances each of the nine tunes he wrote for this session between compositional expression and pure improvising. Additionally he and Alessi, who have played together since the’90s and co-founded Brooklyn’s School for Improvisational Music, function Janus-like as similarly inclined but individual soloists. Not that it’s a two-man show though. Sam Minaie’s rugged bass line sets up many themes, while Mark Ferber resolutely manages the beat through tough swingers and emotive ballads. Three-quarters of the band may be NYC residents, but it sounds as if the four play together every day. MORE

July 11, 2014

Artist Feature

Matt Mitchell
By Ken Waxman

After a year’s unhappy experience in the late ‘90s trying to establish himself in NYC, pianist Matt Mitchell, 38, escaped, as he terms it, to his hometown of Philadelphia and got a day job at the University of the Arts’ library. “I swore I'd never again play one music gig I didn’t want to play, and I haven’t.”

He’s certainly lived up to that pledge. Mitchell, who ultimately quit the library job in 2009, is still in Philly. But he now divides his time working in such high-profile ensembles as Dave Douglas’ Quintet, Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Bird Project, Tim Berne’s Snakeoil, Darius Jones’ Quartet, John Hollenbeck’s Large Ensemble, Rez Abbasi's Invocation, plus his own band with bassist Chris Tordini, drummer Dan Weiss and tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Chris Speed. Mitchell has also been widely praised for Fiction, his Pi Recordings debut, which is a series of duets with Snakeoil drummer Ches Smith. MORE

May 14, 2014

Uri Caine Ensemble

Rhapsody in Blue
Winter & Winter 910.905-2

Théo Ceccaldi Trio +1
Can You Smile?

Ayler Records AYLCD 136

Samo Salamon & Slovene Philharmonic String Chamber Orchestra

Free Strings Orchestrology

KGOSF VD 013

Nils Wogram & Root 70 with strings

Riomar

Wog Records 007

Vijay Iyer

Mutations

ECM CD 2372

Something In The Air: Innovative Writing for Strings and Improvisers

By Ken Waxman

As genres draw closer to one another, the idea of a musician from one area playing and composing a work in another area doesn’t seem so far-fetched. More importantly the sophistication of many contemporary performers means that these inter-genre excursions are triumphant rather than merely passable. One form that is being explored by improvised musicians for instance is composing for the bedrock of the so-called classical music tradition: string groupings. MORE

April 2, 2014

Tom Rainey

Obbligato
Intakt Records CD 227

Douglas/Doxas/Swallow/Doxas

Riverside

Greenleaf Music GLM 1036

Flex Bent Braam

Lucebert

BBBCD 16

The Whammies

Play the Music of Steve Lacy Vol. 2

Driff Records CD 1303

Braxtornette Project

Die Hochstapler

Umlaut Records ub004

Something In The Air: A New Take on Standards – Jazz and Otherwise

By Ken Waxman

Since jazz’s beginnings, the measure of a musician’s talent has not only been how well the person improvises, but also how he or she interprets standards. In the 21st century a standard song has evolved past its Tin Pan Alley origins, plus distinctive purely jazz compositions have entered the canon. But while more conservative players treat standards as immutable, the CDs here are noteworthy because their creators distinctively re-imagine standards. MORE

August 8, 2013

Artist Feature

Andy Milne
By Ken Waxman

“Working with other people from other places and other disciplines expands your own ability to be creative,” notes pianist/composer Andy Milne, the 46-year-old Canadian who has lived stateside since 1991. Without question he has spent the past few years proving this dictum.

Best-known for his six years in the ‘90s as keyboardist with alto saxophonist Steve Coleman’s different bands, as well as leading his own Dapp Theory combo since 1998, Milne’s recent and upcoming projects include experiments with small group improvising and composed orchestral music; collaborations with a fellow pianist, two kotoists, actors and a comedian. Plus his associates hail from the US, France, Japan … and even outer space. MORE

February 5, 2012

Tony Malaby’s

Novela
Clean Feed CF 232

Olaf Rupp/Joe Williamson/Tony Buck

Weird Weapons 2

Creative Sources CS197 CD

Splice

LAB

Loop Records 1013

Bioni-Solberg-Brow

Hopscotch

ILK 179 CD

Something In The Air:

Expat Canadians Create High-Class Improv

By Ken Waxman

Almost from the time the professional music business was established in this country, the expected route for success has been for artists to head off to the larger market down south and set up shop there. Canadians from Percy Faith and Maynard Ferguson to Joni Mitchell and Teresa Stratas effectively followed that formula. But today, as American musical hegemony lessens and modern communications almost literally shrink the world, musicians, especially those who play improvised music, can demonstrate that a permanent home in Europe is as beneficial as becoming an American resident. MORE

January 11, 2010

James Carney Group

Ways & Means
Songlines SGL SA 1580-2

Steve Lehman Octet

Travail, Transformation, and Flow

Pi Records P130

At least since the flexibility of a little big band was demonstrated in Miles Davis’ 1949 Birth of the Cool sessions musicians have utilized that formation when they want to expand their compositional reach without getting involved in the sometimes ponderous arrangements needed for an official big band.

Two stellar examples of the adaptable colors and rhythms available from seven- or eight-piece bands are these CDs by New York-based improvisers. Although both impressively extend sonic visions through the solos of some of Manhattan’s top players and crafty arrangements, overall alto saxophonist Steve Lehman’s Travail, Transformation, and Flow has the edge. Concerned with displaying the nuanced harmonics and overtones available from an assimilation of spectral music, the freshness of his arrangements and compositions trumps keyboardist James Carney’s scores on Ways & Means. Not that Carney’s conceptions are anyway second rate. It’s just that the compositions are shaped and performed in a contemporary jazz fashion in such a way that the results are expected and almost too familiar. You can almost see the parts clank and shudder into place. Perhaps “see” is the key word here as well, since Carney describes the Chamber Music America-commissioned Ways & Means as designed to be a movie in sound. MORE

January 11, 2010

Steve Lehman Octet

Travail, Transformation, and Flow
Pi Records P130

James Carney Group

Ways & Means

Songlines SGL SA 1580-2

At least since the flexibility of a little big band was demonstrated in Miles Davis’ 1949 Birth of the Cool sessions musicians have utilized that formation when they want to expand their compositional reach without getting involved in the sometimes ponderous arrangements needed for an official big band.

Two stellar examples of the adaptable colors and rhythms available from seven- or eight-piece bands are these CDs by New York-based improvisers. Although both impressively extend sonic visions through the solos of some of Manhattan’s top players and crafty arrangements, overall alto saxophonist Steve Lehman’s Travail, Transformation, and Flow has the edge. Concerned with displaying the nuanced harmonics and overtones available from an assimilation of spectral music, the freshness of his arrangements and compositions trumps keyboardist James Carney’s scores on Ways & Means. Not that Carney’s conceptions are anyway second rate. It’s just that the compositions are shaped and performed in a contemporary jazz fashion in such a way that the results are expected and almost too familiar. You can almost see the parts clank and shudder into place. Perhaps “see” is the key word here as well, since Carney describes the Chamber Music America-commissioned Ways & Means as designed to be a movie in sound. MORE

December 3, 2008

Reinhold Friedl/Ensemble Zeitkratzer

Schönberg Pierrot Lunaire Cheap Imitation
Zeitkratzer Records ZKR 001

Mike Westbrook

Westbrook-Rossini

hatOLOGY 661

Uri Caine

The Othello Syndrome

Winter & Winter W&W 910 135-2

Speed/Cheek/Furic Leibovici

Jugendstil

ESP-Disk ESP 4048

Notated Music and Improvisation: Extended Play

So-called classic music and jazz have had an uneasy relationship since the beginning of the last century. Notated musicians yearned for jazz’s rhythmic and improvisational freedom, while jazzers coveted orchestral colors and financial support. MORE

December 3, 2008

Mike Westbrook

Westbrook-Rossini
hatOLOGY 661

Uri Caine

The Othello Syndrome

Winter & Winter W&W 910 135-2

Reinhold Friedl/Ensemble Zeitkratzer

Schönberg Pierrot Lunaire Cheap Imitation

Zeitkratzer Records ZKR 001

Speed/Cheek/Furic Leibovici

Jugendstil

ESP-Disk ESP 4048

Notated Music and Improvisation: Extended Play

So-called classic music and jazz have had an uneasy relationship since the beginning of the last century. Notated musicians yearned for jazz’s rhythmic and improvisational freedom, while jazzers coveted orchestral colors and financial support. MORE

December 3, 2008

Uri Caine

The Othello Syndrome
Winter & Winter W&W 910 135-2

Mike Westbrook

Westbrook-Rossini

hatOLOGY 661

Reinhold Friedl/Ensemble Zeitkratzer

Schönberg Pierrot Lunaire Cheap Imitation

Zeitkratzer Records ZKR 001

Speed/Cheek/Furic Leibovici

Jugendstil

ESP-Disk ESP 4048

Notated Music and Improvisation: Extended Play

So-called classic music and jazz have had an uneasy relationship since the beginning of the last century. Notated musicians yearned for jazz’s rhythmic and improvisational freedom, while jazzers coveted orchestral colors and financial support. MORE

December 3, 2008

Speed/Cheek/Furic Leibovici

Jugendstil
ESP-Disk ESP 4048

Mike Westbrook

Westbrook-Rossini

hatOLOGY 661

Uri Caine

The Othello Syndrome

Winter & Winter W&W 910 135-2

Reinhold Friedl/Ensemble Zeitkratzer

Schönberg Pierrot Lunaire Cheap Imitation

Zeitkratzer Records ZKR 001

Notated Music and Improvisation: Extended Play

So-called classic music and jazz have had an uneasy relationship since the beginning of the last century. Notated musicians yearned for jazz’s rhythmic and improvisational freedom, while jazzers coveted orchestral colors and financial support. MORE

April 1, 2008

James Carney Group

Green-Wood
Songlines SGL SA 1566-2

Alberto Braida/Wilbert de Joode

Reg Erg

Red Toucan RT 9332

Kartet

The Bay Window

Songlines SGL SA 1560-2

Carl Ludwig Hübsch

Primordial Soup

Red Toucan RT 9331

Butcher/Muller/van der Schyff

Way Out Northwest

Drip Audio DA 00272

By Ken Waxman

Music transcends borders, and so does music distribution in the Internet age. Couple this with the maturation of the Canadian improvised music scene and a new phenomenon is visible: CDs recorded elsewhere, but released by Canadian labels for international distribution. MORE

April 1, 2008

Carl Ludwig Hübsch

Primordial Soup
Red Toucan RT 9331

Kartet

The Bay Window

Songlines SGL SA 1560-2

James Carney Group

Green-Wood

Songlines SGL SA 1566-2

Alberto Braida/Wilbert de Joode

Reg Erg

Red Toucan RT 9332

Butcher/Muller/van der Schyff

Way Out Northwest

Drip Audio DA 00272

By Ken Waxman

Music transcends borders, and so does music distribution in the Internet age. Couple this with the maturation of the Canadian improvised music scene and a new phenomenon is visible: CDs recorded elsewhere, but released by Canadian labels for international distribution. MORE

April 1, 2008

Alberto Braida/Wilbert de Joode

Reg Erg
Red Toucan RT 9332

Kartet

The Bay Window

Songlines SGL SA 1560-2

James Carney Group

Green-Wood

Songlines SGL SA 1566-2

Carl Ludwig Hübsch

Primordial Soup

Red Toucan RT 9331

Butcher/Muller/van der Schyff

Way Out Northwest

Drip Audio DA 00272

By Ken Waxman

Music transcends borders, and so does music distribution in the Internet age. Couple this with the maturation of the Canadian improvised music scene and a new phenomenon is visible: CDs recorded elsewhere, but released by Canadian labels for international distribution. MORE

April 1, 2008

Kartet

The Bay Window
Songlines SGL SA 1560-2

James Carney Group

Green-Wood

Songlines SGL SA 1566-2

Alberto Braida/Wilbert de Joode

Reg Erg

Red Toucan RT 9332

Carl Ludwig Hübsch

Primordial Soup

Red Toucan RT 9331

Butcher/Muller/van der Schyff

Way Out Northwest

Drip Audio DA 00272

By Ken Waxman

Music transcends borders, and so does music distribution in the Internet age. Couple this with the maturation of the Canadian improvised music scene and a new phenomenon is visible: CDs recorded elsewhere, but released by Canadian labels for international distribution. MORE

March 21, 2005

Rêve D’éléphant Orchestra

Lobster Caravan
W.E.R.F.

Simone Guiducci/Gramelot Ensemble
Dancin’ Roots
Felmay/Newtone

By Ken Waxman
March 21, 2005

Matching improvisation with different sounds has been a defining factor in what we call jazz from its beginnings. As approximations of the sound stretch further afield the combinations became more unique and varied, especially when culture was taken into consideration.

Not all cultures and musics meld comfortably with jazz-inflected improvisations. Some match-ups are more noteworthy than others and often only parts of the union work. This becomes apparent when listening to the two European combos featured on these CDs. MORE

June 7, 2004

FRED HERSCH

Fred Hersch Trio + 2
Palmetto Records PM 2099

Back in 1977, as a change of pace, pianist Bill Evans added saxophonists Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh to his trio of the time for CROSSCURRENTS, a Fantasy LP that amplified and enhanced his usual sounds.

Fred Hersch, who is arguably Evans’ heir in subtle inventiveness, does almost the same thing on this CD. The results are outstanding, giving an added robustness to the pianist’s compositions, which have a tendency to be overly fragile and prosaically mainstream in other situations. MORE

March 24, 2004

URI CAINE

Gustav Mahler - Dark Flame
Winter & Winter 910-095-2

Newest chapter in pianist Uri Caine’s POMO recasting of the works of the so-called Great Composers, DARK FLAME showcases an almost total vocal program.

Based on lieder composed by Austrian Gustav Mahler (1860-1911), the musicianship and inventiveness here are at the same high standard as Caine’s earlier meditations on the work of J. S. Bach, Richard Wagner and other Mahler projects. But with 14 selections rearranged over 77 minutes, there are times the variations move from novelty to gimmickry. Mahler’s oeuvre heard in gospel, Klezmer, rock or mainstream jazz variations is engaging; but linking it to turntable tricks, Oriental sounds, overwrought poetics or cocktail jazz works less well. MORE