Ralph Alessi ‘Quiver’ (ECM) 3/5

ralph-alessiIf one had to capture the underlying mood of this latest album from trumpeter Ralph Alessi, then it would probably contain adjectives such as reflective and meditative. It is the second album on ECM, following up Alessi’s debut album, ‘Baida’, from 2013. The one major difference is in the absence of pianist Jason Moran, replaced this time round by Gary Versace. The latter does not partake in the same amount of soloing and that is one of the album’s shortcomings.
Unquestionably, Ralph Alessi is a technically gifted musician. However, there is something about the melancholy nature of this recording that leaves this reviewer in particular cold and it is certainly somewhat lacking in soulfulness. If anything the sound created is a tad too clean and the album as a whole would benefit greatly from a wider variety of tempi. Only on the end track, ‘Do over’ does the pace become anything near frenetic and even that composition is way too short in length and there are simply not enough examples of this kind overall. That said, there is something to admire on the soloing of a piece such as ‘I to I’. Post-bop hues emerge on ‘Smooth descent’ which is the nearest the rest of the album gets to mustering energetic enthusiasm

Fans of Kenny Wheeler and the melancholic late 1950s Miles will find much to admire in the work of Ralph Alessi. It is pity, then, that we come away with a somewhat one-dimensional view of the trumpeter on this occasion. Something of a missed opportunity.

Tim Stenhouse