Tag Archives: Andy Milne

JazzWrap review by Vern

Ralph Alessi and This Against That – Wiry Strong (CF 220)
Ralph Alessi’s music always has a well structured, complex and cinematic feel to it. He was raised and trained as a classical trumpeter, and it shows throughout all of his releases with a supreme mastery of his instrument. The combination of that classical technique and his love of modern jazz structures makes for exciting and diverse albums every time out.

His work with fellow trailblazing musicians such as Jason Moran, Don Byron, Uri Caine, Steve Coleman among others has put him in an almost indescribable category. Most jazz fans would describe his music as avant garde but his latest, Wiry Strong (Clean Feed Records) feels like his most accomplished and accessible album to date.

Wiry Strong magnificently weaves together diverse ideas, turning them into romantic adventures and in some cases fun excursions. “Station Wagon Trip” has a big orchestrated tone but it is also enveloped a sense of a group moving forward in sound. There are spiraling rhythms that are enhanced by Andy Milne on piano and Ravi Coltrane. Alessi’s performance carries the listener on what feels like a surreal journey but this all works as an enjoyable experience that can easily be grasped by even the newest fan to Alessi’s music.

“Halves And Wholes” is probably the most beautiful piece on the record. It definitely highlights Alessi’s contemporary/straight ahead abilities both in composition and performance. This is a ballad which the band is integral but Alessi carries the tune with a soft touch that is match wonderfully by Milne.

“A Dollar In Your Shoe” and “20% Of The 80%” are both fun pieces combining multi-layered structures with some crisp performances by Gress and Ferber (in the case of “Dollar”). Alessi’s muted trumpet of “20% Of The 80%” adds a level of mystery to the piece along with rolling, repeating patterns from Ferber that keep the avant garde and forward thinking spirit of this group alive. “Wiry Strong” closes out the session in a searching yet forward thinking mode. Alessi and Coltrane lead the group upward in both timing and adventure.

With Wiry Strong, Ralph Alessi has created an album of incredibly rich concepts and captivating melodies that will be rewarding for fans new and old. Ralph Alessi like his many collaborators is among the rare group of musicians who are continuing to push jazz forward and beyond its traditional definitions. Highly Recommended.

The New York City Jazz Record by David R. Adler

Ralph Alessi And This Against That – Wiry Strong (CF 220)
There’s a good deal of continuity between Wiry Strong, the latest release from trumpeter Ralph Alessi’s This Against That and previous efforts such as Look, a 2007 outing with the same personnel. A key difference, however: tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, a “special guest” on four tracks from Look, is now billed as a full-fledged quintet member. Between the two front linehorns, Andy Milne’s spacious piano and the rugged, textural rhythm of bassist Drew Gress and drummer Mark Ferber, Alessi gives himself an enticing range of options. He goes the route of tight orchestration, spiky melodies, darkly suggestive harmony and flowing improvised dialogue, hard-edged but not without a certain tenderness on numbers such as “Halves and Wholes” and “Mira”. Of the 15 tracks, all are Alessi’s originals save forfour collectively-composed pieces: “Pudgy”, “Racy Banter”, “Celebrity Golf Classic” and the opening “Clown Painting”. Curiously, these brief abstract sketches, marked by odd timbres and repeating rhythmic patterns, are recorded a bit louder than the main body of the album, giving the disc a slightly uneven aural effect (perhaps the intention of co-producers Alessi and Tim Berne). Elsewhere, subtle overdubbed trumpet backgrounds on “Station Wagon Trip”, “Halves and Wholes” and the closing title track enhance the chamber-jazz aspects of Alessi’s writing. The playing is sonorous and vibrant, although at 72 minutes the program drags in spots. Drummers are key to Alessi’s springy, funk-inflected rhythmic language, as Nasheet Waits proved on the trumpeter’s laser-focused 2010 quartet outing Cognitive Dissonance. On Wiry Strong it is Ferber who lends momentum and wide-ranging percussive colors: martial snare patterns on “Bizarro-World Moment”; rolling toms on “20% of the 80%”; skittering motion on“A Dollar in Your Shoe” and rubato musings leading toa bright, surging tempo on “Medieval Genius”. But repeat listens drive home how every bandmember -not least of all Alessi with his soaring and allusive horn – brings this complex contrapuntal world into relief.

Time Out Lisboa review by Jose Carlos Fernandes

Ralph Alessi – Wiry Strong (CF 220) ****
O trompetista Ralph Alessi tem tido, na qualidade de sideman, “patrões” tão diversos como Uri Caine, Steve Coleman, Fred Hersch ou Jason Moran, pelo que estes não permitem prever o que se pode esperar dele como líder. Wiry Strong, o terceiro disco do seu projecto This Against That revela-o num sábio equilíbrio entre tradição e modernidade – nem a componente “tradicional” se resume à salmodia do catecismo bop, nem a componente “moderna” se aventura por territórios inóspitos e escarpas inacessíveis.

Nos músicos convocados, todos repetentes de Look, o disco anterior dos This Against That, destacam-se nomes com quem Alessi trabalha há anos, como Ravi Coltrane (sax) e Drew Gress (contrabaixo). Os temas, todos de Alessi, primam pela concisão e diversidade: da balada levemente enviesada de “Mira” à parada desconjuntada com trompete cacarejante de “Celebrity Golf Classic” (que dura apenas um minuto), da ondulação sensual e preguiçosa de “Sock Pupeteer” ao groove intenso de “Bizarro-World Moment” (um eco distante do universo M-Base de Steve Coleman), do inquietante coxear de “Medieval Genius” à elegia crepuscular de “Wiry Strong”, do bop dançarino de “A Dollar in Your Shoe” à marcha a um tempo solene e ridícula de “Humdrum”. Alessi e Coltrane-Filho assinam solos inspirados e sempre bem integrados no contexto, o primeiro brilhando em “20% of the 80%” e “Cobbs Hill”, o segundo em “Bizarro-World Moment”. Gress, Andy Milne (piano) e James Ferber (bateria) fornecem todo o apoio que se pode desejar.

Más Jazz Magazine reviews by Pachi Tapiz

Daniel Levin – Inner Landscape (CF 224)

Tim Berne / Bruno Chevillon – Old and Unwise (CF 221)
BassDrumBone – The Other Parade (CF 223)
Ralph Alessi and This Against That – Wiry Strong (CF 220)
Tim Berne: Insommia (CF 215)
En 2011 el sello Clean Feed cumple su décimo aniversario. Con más de 200 referencias publicadas, un año sí yotro también aparece destacado en las votaciones anuales entre los mejores sellos del año correspondiente en revistas y medios especializados. En el año de su aniversario ha publicado ya una decena de referencias, entre las que hay unas cuantas grabaciones destacadas.

Inner Landscape es un disco en solitario de Daniel Levin. El chelista es uno de los músicos que se podría calificar como habitual del sello en los últimos meses congrabaciones publicadas del Daniel Levin Quartet o apareciendo como colaborador en otros grupos (Ivo Perelman Quartet). Inner Landscape recoge seis improvisaciones que más allá del fruto de la inspiración instantánea en el momento de la grabación suponen un proceso de reflexión y maduración. El disco está grabado en dos sesiones en Nueva York y Chicago, y proponen un pequeño viaje a partir de los breves motivos que inician cada uno de los paisajes sonoros. Levin hace uso de todo su arsenal de recursos empleando el pizzicato y el arco, y también percutiendo sobre el instrumento. Entre las referencias musicales hay pasajes que miran hacia la música clásica, e incluso de un cierto folclore no imaginado. En otros cambia hacia los terrenos de la vanguardia jazzística y la improvisación. Sin tener como objetivo mantener un ritmo marcado, pero sin rehuirde las melodías, es sumamente interesante el escucharle e nun diálogo continuado consigo mismo.

El saxofonista Tim Berne ya nos ha dado una gran alegría a los aficionados este año 2011 con la publicación de Insommia. Una grabación de 1997 inédita hasta el momento en la que a su formación Bloodcount (Chris Speed, Michael Formanek y Jim Black), se incorporaban el trompetista Baikida Carroll, el guitarrista Marc Ducret, el violinistaDominique Pifarelly y el chelista Erik Friedlander. La grabación incluía los largos “Open, Coma” y el inédito “The Proposal”. Representantes de las mejores grabaciones de TimBerne de la época, resulta un enigma el motivo por el que dicha grabación ha estado durmiendo el sueño de los justos durante más de una década. Especialmente, si se tiene encuenta que Tim Berne ha mantenido en activo su discográfica Screwgun Records con la que ha documentado magníficamente sus proyectos, y sobre todo porque se erige como una obra en absoluto menor entre las que dan cuenta de suforma de entender el jazz. El CD es imprescindible para los seguidores del saxofonista y compositor.

Old and Unwise es un dúo de Tim Berne con el contrabajista francés Bruno Chevillon. Once improvisaciones en las que los dos músicos establecen un diálogo de igual a igual y en el que tienen la sabiduría de modelar su discurso para pasar por diferentes estadios de ánimo. Para ello no hay más que escuchar la cierta delicadeza y parsimonia de “high/low”, y compararla con el ritmo marcado de la magnífica “l’état d’incertidumbre”, la fiereza de “Au centre du corps” o el carácter casi barroco de “back up the truck”. Berne, que aquí únicamente participa con el saxo alto, muestra que se encuentra en un magnífico estado de forma, lo mismo quele sucede al contrabajista francés.

BassDrumBone es una formación de contrabajo (Mark Helias), trombón (Ray Anderson) y batería (Gerry Hemingway) que “únicamente” lleva en activo más de treinta años. Los tres músicos son unas primeras figuras en el jazzy la improvisación, aunque su discografía como trío no es muy abundante. Por eso la publicación de The Other Parade debería ser más que bien recibidas por los seguidores del gupo. Recientemente Gerry Hemingway comentaba que las formaciones en las que se siente más a gusto son improvisando libremente en dúo (en los últimos meses ha publicado más de media docena de grabaciones en ese formato), yen solitario. Sin embargo este trío es una formación en la que se leve muy cómodo. En la que a los tres músicos se les vemuy cómodos. Alejados de los terrenos de la improvisación libre y la creación espontánea, algo que se podría calificar como vanguardia, cada uno de los músicos aporta tres composiciones. En ellas no tienen reparo alguno en mirar al pasa-do con cariño y con respeto evocando la música de Nueva Orleans o echando mano del blues. Los tres son unos maestros de sus respectivos instrumentos y demuestran ser unos buenos compositores, regalándonos con unas obras contagiosas que hacen que el pie no pare de marcar el ritmo.

Ralph Alessi es un trompetista que de algún modo hapadecido el estar a la sombra de otras figuras como Dave Douglas a pesar de ser un magnífico instrumentista. En Wiry Strong no sólo lo demuestra sino que además se erige encompositor y líder de un quinteto de campanillas en el que participan el saxofonista Ravi Coltrane, el imprescindible contrabajista Drew Gress, el baterista Mark Ferber y el pianista Andy Milne. Su obra es un disco de post-bop engañoso, o quizás incluso grabado con muy malas intenciones. Hay composiciones con unas estructuras muy definidas, pero que permiten un enorme grado de libertad a los músicos la hora de expresar sus ideas. Esto es algo que no es nuevo en absoluto, pero que a veces se olvida a la hora de afrontarla creación musical. Otro elemento que llama la atención es que en setenta minutos se desgranan quince temas muy variados y deslumbrantes analizados uno a uno y en conjunto que permiten sospechar que en directo este proyecto puede ser toda una sorpresa para los oyentes desprevenidos.

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

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.

All About Jazz review by Mark Corroto

Ralph Alessi and This Against That – Wiry Strong (CF 220)
Born out of the jazz laboratory of Brooklyn’s M-Base experiments of the 1990s, trumpeter Ralph Alessi has always seemed to be a farouche player. Never hankering for the spotlight, he always seems satisfied to turn in solid deliberate efforts that don’t court flattery. Maybe it is his subtle nature, but what some might have missed has always been picked up by his fellow musicians. He has been called upon by the likes of Fred Hersch, Uri Caine, Jason Moran, Don Byron, and Sam Rivers to complement some significant musical statements the last few years.

One of his ongoing projects, This Against That, is a like-minded affair with fellow M- Base graduates Ravi Coltrane and Andy Milne. These birds of a feather have collaborated on each others’ projects for the last decade and share a self- effacing approach to music making.

Like Cognitive Dissonance (Cam Jazz, 2010) Alessi employs Milne and bassist Drew Gress, but adds Coltrane and drummer Mark Ferber. Wiry Strong is composed of 15 tracks, four of which are short group improvisations built to complement the remaining Alessi-penned works. Like the improvisational sketches, the music is quite attentive to atmosphere. Alessi paints modest scenes in which the players interact, usually in pairs. The trumpet and bass first trade lines on “A Dollar In Your Shoe,” then saxophone and piano, while Ferber energizes the mood. On “20% of the 80%” the piano and bass are in lockstep, while the title track has a bit of trumpet and drum gymnastics. Alessi eschews the theme-solo-theme mode for this varied palate of tones and attitudes. Coltrane is a perfect collaborator for this presentation, tailoring his sound to the mood at hand. Each piece is quite inconspicuous, revealing itself not as blatant theater, but as fine-drawn and discerning storytelling.