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.