Terkel Nørgaard ‘With Ralph Alessi’ LP/CD (We Jazz) 4/5

Terkel Nørgaard unveils his new project released through Helsinki’s We Jazz Records which sees him partner with revered trumpeter and educator Ralph Alessi on the aptly titled album, ‘With Ralph Alessi’.

Born and raised in Copenhagen, Denmark, drummer Nørgaard can boast having served as a part of performances and projects by Billy Hart, Palle Mikkelborg, Jeff Ballard and Ed Thigpen, all the while managing to display a virtuosic level of skill throughout his music even through ‘out of the box’ collaborations like Nørgaard’s work with Swedish electronic producer and musician, Olof Melander.

And since the inception of Nørgaard’s jazz trio Reverse in 2012, which pairs the drummer with bassist Jesper Thorn and pianist Søren Gemmer (a solo artist in his own right), the auspicious outfit established themselves with albums ‘Awakening’ (Blackout, 2014) and ‘Museum’ (DME, 2017) along with having toured and performed with Jørgen Leth, Palle Mikkelborg and Nicolaj Stockholm. US trumpeter, Ralph Alessi, from San Francisco, California, has also been something of a frequent collaborator with Nørgaard and Reverse, and with innumerable accolades and achievements under his own belt including notable collaborations with Uri Caine, Ravi Coltrane and Steve Coleman; serving as the Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies at University of Nevado-Reno and the Director of the School for Improvisational Music. It all makes the Nørgaard/Alessi union for this album all the more alluring.

There’s a hint of another We Jazz Records drums/brass combination from earlier this year which paired drummer Teppo Mäkynen with saxophonist Timo Lassy for their similarly titled album, ‘Timo Lassy & Teppo Mäkynen’. That imaginative project presented 13 tracks featuring the exclusivity of just their respective drum-kit and horn, and while ‘With Ralph Alessi’ benefits from the inclusion of Thorn and Gemmer, ‘thirteen’ serves as a strong album highlight as we see the dynamic relationship between Nørgaard and Alessi on full display, The interaction between the two goes uninterrupted for nearly three minutes before they’re once again joined by Thorn and Gemmer who collectively usher in the song’s thrilling crescendo marking it as one of the project’s genuinely standout moments.

While ‘thirteen’ is in itself a fantastic advertisement for the album as a whole, each of the Nørgaard compositions reflect the refined and effortless chemistry between the four players which are reflective of the years of prior performances together. Over the course of the seven original tracks presented here – interestingly all named as non-sequential numbers which perhaps relate to the 21 songs that were initially recorded for this album – the high quality level of interplay and musicianship is displayed throughout marking ‘With Ralph Alessi’ as an absolute joy and another solid addition within the Nørgaard and Reverse catalogue.

Imran Mirza