Labels > Cam Jazz > Ralph Alessi > Cognitive Dissonance

Ralph Alessi

Cognitive Dissonance

Cam Jazz CAMJ 7827-5

Item: full_album_8024709114921_CD

Artists :
Andy Milne ( Piano )
Drew Gress ( Double bass )
Jason Moran ( Piano )
Nasheet Waits ( Drums )
Ralph Alessi ( Trumpet )
Release date
Aug 10, 2010

A first --as a leader-- on CAM JAZZ records: the new recording by Ralph Alessi, with Jason Moran on piano, Andy Milne on piano (on Sir and Same Old Story), Drew Gress on double bass, and Nasheet Waits on drums.

"A striking recording from the first moment: a clear instrumental voice, unique, made even more extraordinary by a vocabulary full of subtleties…"  


Recorded in New York in September 2004 at Context Studios, Brooklyn
Recording engineer Bobo Fini


Ralph Alessi: Cognitive Dissonance - Four stars

For his Cam Jazz debut, trumpeter Ralph Alessi recruits two key players from his sadly overlooked Look (Between the Lines, 2007). But while ubiquitous bassist Drew Gress (Marc Copland, Claudia Quintet) is a mainstay of Cognitive Dissonance, pianist Andy Milne only guests on the knottily themed but swinging "Sir" and a quirkily, near-unrecognizable version of Stevie Wonder's "Same Old Story." The rest of the album's fifteen tracks—eleven by Alessi, in addition to a free-spirited yet surprisingly lyrical version of Sam Rivers' "Sunflower" and two collective improvs with Gress and drummer Nasheet Waits—feature pianist Jason Moran, once again demonstrating his greater strengths as a sideman. The same needn't be said about Alessi who, along with fellow trumpeter Ron Miles, remains one of America's most perennially (and curiously) undervalued trumpeters. His plangent, warm and somehow compressed tone is just one compelling reason to check out bassist Scott Colley's Architect of the Silent Moment (Cam Jazz, 2007) (and his forthcoming 2010 Cam Jazz follow-up, Empire), guitarist Joel Harrison's The Wheel (Innova, 2008) and Gress' The Irrational Numbers (Premonition, 2008). With a relatively diminutive self-led discography, the avant-tinged trumpeter has also proven himself an astute bandleader and fine conceptualist, ranging from the oddly configured Vice & Virtue (RKM, 2003) to the more orthodox (but far from conventional) instrumental line-up of This Against That (RKM, 2002). Cognitive Dissonance covers a lot of ground in an hour. The irregularly metered but unfailingly grooving title track kicks things off on a high note, with Gress and Waits building an M-Base-centric foundation over which Moran's funkified piano sets a broad harmonic context. Alessi's impressive opening salvo sets the tone for an album where the soloists are challenged to say a great deal in a short timeframe, succeeding consistently. Despite only one track exceeding six minutes, with the majority ranging between three and four, there's never a sense of being hurried, as Alessi solos with equal invention over the even more rhythmically intricate "Buying, Selling"—his even briefer solo (on a tune where the head occupies a full minute of its 2:56 running time) a muted combination of spare, swinging ideas and equal consideration of space, with Moran's staggered accompaniment leading to a similarly well-conceived solo, supported by the ever-pliant, ever-responsive Gress and Waits. Alessi waxes lyrical on the balladic "Dog Waking" and tango-esque "One Wheeler Will," written for William Coltrane—son of legendary saxophonist John Coltrane's son (and also very fine reed man) Ravi Coltrane. An inadvertent nod to expat Canadian trumpet icon Kenny Wheeler in the trumpeter's tone and expressive melancholy, "One Wheeler Will" also features a robust, yet metallic and Gary Peacock-like solo from Gress that's a Cognitive Dissonance highlight. With so much ground covered, it would be easy for Cognitive Dissonance to lose its focus, to become overly eclectic. But with Alessi's writing—a challenging combination of memorable themes, harmonically and rhythmically tricky contexts and improvisational largess—and an unfettered yet focused playing style that never succumbs to excess, Cognitive Dissonance easily deserves consideration alongside the music of better-known contemporaries like Dave Douglas.

16/8/2010allaboutjazz.comJohn Kelman
Jazz Quartet Finds Clarity and Chemistry Together

Ralph Alessi has never had a problem with precision or grappled publicly with the mechanics of his art. His trumpet tone conveys a rounded luminescence, like the moon in full phase, and his technique is an astonishment of fluency. The challenge for him, at least as a bandleader, revolves around emotional expressiveness, along with the issue of purpose. At times it can seem as if Mr. Alessi favors open-endedness because he doesn’t trust his own conclusions or his means of making them felt by an audience. All of which helps frame the nature of his achievement at the Jazz Standard on Wednesday. Mr. Alessi was booked there for a single night, with a rhythm section composed of the pianist Jason Moran, the bassist Drew Gress and the drummer Nasheet Waits. Their first set was generously apportioned but over too soon. Mr. Alessi, working with these partners, gave it the urgent force and clarity of a manifesto. They drew mainly from “Cognitive Dissonance,” an album released last month (on the Italian label Cam Jazz) but recorded more than five years ago. It’s a strong effort, one of Mr. Alessi’s best, but it was handily outshone by this performance. The cooperative history among the players — all of whom also appeared on Mr. Alessi’s album “This Against That” (RKM), in 2002 — threw the music into high contrast and sharper relief. Some of the vital chemistry was undoubtedly the work of Mr. Moran and Mr. Waits, who for the last decade have worked together in Mr. Moran’s trio, the Bandwagon. “Duel,” a loose-limbed acoustic-funk tune, culminated in precisely the sort of hiccup-vamp that the Bandwagon so often exploits: a hip-hop device transplanted into post-bop soil. Elsewhere there was the pairing of classical sobriety and Thelonious Monkish friction that Mr. Moran has made a part of his signature. But it didn’t feel as if Mr. Alessi had simply hopped aboard the Bandwagon, or swiped another group’s playbook for his use. For one thing, he has a deep connection with Mr. Gress, who tackled the set as more of an annotator than an anchor. For another, the bond between Mr. Gress and Mr. Waits, longtime partners in the Fred Hersch Trio, was similarly distinct, a lesson in earthy elasticity. “Dog Waking,” the set opener, had bass and drums in a state of maximum suspense, carrying a faintly West African motif as Mr. Moran moved from one chordal encampment to the next. And though Mr. Alessi has a notional command of swing, his bandmates made it a priority on “Wait,” a tune perhaps devised with Mr. Waits in mind. Pitching hard during the impressive trumpet solo and swirling free as piano took over, the quartet sounded unstoppably inventive. Someone should gather the nerve to book them for a week.

15/8/2010nytimes.comNate Chinen
Ralph Alessi Cognitive Dissonance

Ralph Alessi 's striking sound is the first thing one notices about his trumpet playing. The veteran has been active on the New York jazz scene for some time, and for these sessions he's accompanied by the equally innovative pianist Jason Moran (spelled by Andy Milne on two tracks), bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Nasheet Waits. Most of the songs are originals by the leader. "Cognitive Dissonance" is a playful opener that shows an Ornette Coleman influence, building upon a repeated line as its intensity increases, quickly turning into a rollicking performance. The hip "Buying, Selling" is full of sudden detours in its theme over a funky undercurrent. The avant-gardish "Duel" contrasts with the luxurious melody of his ballad "A Plenty." The free-form "Hair Trigger" omits piano, allowing Alessi more room to improvise over the driving bass and drums. The group dives full force into Sam Rivers' demanding composition "Sunflower," engaging its repeated motif with gusto. Milne is on piano for an imaginative reworking of Stevie Wonder's "Same Old Story," adding some adventurous accompaniment as Alessi plays its familiar theme fairly straight. All in all, this is a brilliant date by Ralph Alessi.

26/7/2010allmusic.comKen Dryden
Ralph Alessi – “Cognitive Dissonance”

In a New York Times review of a live performance by Ralph Alessi’s quartet in August 2010, Nate Chinen noted the trumpeter’s tone, which “conveys a rounded luminescence, like the moon in full phase,” and his technique, which “is an astonishment of fluency.” But at the heart of the review was the idea that Ralph, aided by the rhythm section of the pianist Jason Moran, the bassist Drew Gress, and the drummer Nasheet Waits, managed to propel the music forward with “the urgent force and clarity of a manifesto.” Born and raised in San Francisco, Ralph comes from a musical family – both of his parents are musicians (in fact, his first trumpet lessons were with his father), and his brother Joseph Jr. is currently the principle trombonist of the New York Philharmonic. While still a teenager, Ralph began freelancing as a classical trumpeter, performing with the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, and various chamber orchestras. Soon thereafter, Ralph enrolled the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), where he received a bachelors’ degree in trumpet performance and a master’s degree in jazz bass performance (he studied under the legendary Charlie Haden, and also apprenticed in Charlie’s Liberation Music Orchestra during his time there). After finishing his studies, Ralph made the move to New York, where he immersed himself in the city’s vibrant downtown scene. In the years following his arrival, he performed and recorded regularly with bands led by Steve Coleman, Don Byron, Uri Caine, Ravi Coltrane, Sam Rivers, and others. As a leader, he has released several critically acclaimed albums – This Against That (RKM) was selected by JazzTimes as one of the “Ten Best Recordings of 2002”, and Cognitive Dissonance (CAM Jazz) received a four star review in DownBeat. Ralph is also active as an educator – he is the co-founder and director of the non-profit School for Improvisational Music (SIM) and serves on the faculty of New York University. As Chinen explains in his review, these four musicians have a long history of working together in various configurations. All of them appear on This Against That, and are the only performers featured on his latest album, Cognitive Dissonance (CAM Jazz). The pianist Jason Moran and drummer Nasheet Waits share a very well-known (and well-documented) rapport from Jason’s trio, The Bandwagon, and also from Nasheet’s band, Equality. Nasheet and Drew Gress have collaborated extensively in the trio of the pianist Fred Hersch, and Ralph and Drew have worked together on each others’ projects as well. Ralph, Jason, Drew, and Nasheet have been performing here in various configurations for years, and we are thrilled to be presenting them on our stage this weekend on both Friday and Saturday nights. You don’t have to take our word for it this time; Time Out New York has flagged this show as a Critics’ Pick.

27/6/2010 jazzspeaks.orgRafiq Bhatia