Ralph Alessi ‘Baida’ (ECM) 4/5

Ralph_AlessiAmerican trumpeter Ralph Alessi who has a foot in both classical and jazz music camps, his father being a classically trained trumpeter and mother being an opera singer, has been involved in some ambitious recent projects, notably engaged in a duet recording with pianist Fred Hersch. For his latest project, he has enlisted the support of a crack rhythm section comprising pianist Jason Moran, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Nasheet Waits. The all-original set of compositions reveals a profound awareness of and sensitivity towards the jazz tradition. If the overall impression is of a nod towards mid-late 1950s Miles Davis, then it is the empathetic rapport with pianist Moran that is most striking and impressive. This is illustrated on pieces such as the waltz-like ‘Throwing like a girl’ with muted harmon and piano in unison and on the title track and its reprise which bookend the set. For hearing the rhythm section in full flow, the busy and engaging ‘In flight entertainment’ with a simple piano riff serving as the pretext for an extended solo from Moran later on will enthral. There will be those who might question whether Alessi’s tone on a number such as ‘Maria Lydia’ is simply too clinical, but the riposte can be found in the mournful ballad ‘Sanity’ where Alessi’s devotion to the cause is beyond reproach. Tim Stenhouse