With Look, his second outing featuring his band This Against
Jan P. Dennis | Monument, CO USA | 03/11/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ralph Alessi has found his métier. Alessi has always displayed huge chops and an interesting concept. The problem has been that he has struggled to find the right approach to solving the basic jazz enigma: how to make a genuine contribution to the music without being either too weird (Hissy Fit) or too esoteric (Vice & Virtue, Phfew). With his new quartet, This Against That, he's landed on just the right format to optimally display his considerable talents, and his new disc, Look, has all the earmarks of an instant classic.
His band is certainly a formidable one. Let's start with pianist Andy Milne, a player of whom I have only slight knowledge. The Canadian-born, Brooklyn-based pianist and keysman not only leads the Nu Jazz band, Dapp Theory, but has played extensively with Steve Coleman and other M-Bass Collective members, Ravi Coltrane, and Carla Cook. I really love his piano concept: very mysterioso/minimalist, but capable of stunning solo statements. Check out his work on "The Tooth Fairy and Pistol Pete" to see what I mean.
Bassist Drew Gress certainly needs no introduction to anyone at all familiar with cutting edge jazz. A member of the brilliantly quirky Claudia Quintet, lead artist on the widely praised outings 7 Black Butterflies and Spin and Drift, as well as five other discs, contributor to the music of artists as diverse and renowned as Tim Berne, Don Byron, Uri Caine, Bill Carrothers, Fred Hersch, Tony Malaby, Mat Maneri, Ben Perowski, and others, Gress is among the foremost practitioners of his instrument alive today. One of the things he brings to this music is a thorough knowledge of both classic and "out" jazz, plus the ability to move with perfect naturalness in each. His solos are masterpieces of economy and imagination.
This is certainly Mark Ferber's greatest outing. Given room to stretch out, he's all over his kit, now driving, now providing coloration, now percussively shaping everything around him. I also like how up-front he's recorded. Really, he sounds like about 10 great Downtown drummers all wrapped up into one, but still maintaining his own distinct approach and personality.
Leader Alessi has matured greatly since I last heard him (on Hissy Fit, I think), especially in the areas of band leadership and composition. He's always had a wonderfully warm yet dry trumpet sound, thoroughly modern, but steeped in the history of the instrument. For me the high point of his playing on this disc come in the four pieces that include Ravi Coltrane on tenor sax. Their quirky, edgy, harmonically daring interaction always intrigues even as their incredibly precise intonation astounds. Yet there's nothing either aridly academic or out-for-out's-sake unapproachable about their playing: just joyously eccentric conversation unfailingly listenable.
But it's the compositions (all by Alessi) that make the strongest impression. Far removed from both the hackneyed approach of wallowing in past jazz glories (especially, God forbid, hard bop) and superficially appropriating hare-today-goon-tomorrow pop-music ephemera (hip-hop, lounge, house), this music rings with hugely original and completely diverse compositional strategies, as if Tin Hat met the Claudia Quintet.
Certainly the finest music ever purveyed by that generally avant-garde label, Between the Lines, and some of the most provocative, listenable, and endearing music of the new century. This is what jazz is all about: forward-looking, but rooted in the past; edgy, but accessible; brilliant, but friendly. Absolutely not to be missed."
One of my obsessive listenings
Ali Haluk | Istanbul, Turkey | 01/07/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"though i have approximately 2.000 of jazz albums "look" is one of my obsessive listenings in last months that chases others from my cd player! last night i asked why:
- because of the obscurity that keeps its place after listening all and intriguing you for an other listen in a few days
- because of short and catchy cuts that never bother you
- because original, modern and "complex, yet accessible" compositions concern me more with respect to standards and similar post-bob compositions in last years
- because of ravi coltrane, drew gress, andy milne and mark ferber's collective soul
- because of the "near cry", "hands", "lap nap" and especially "old beady eyes"
- because it really looks... at music/culture/society and in me
for me, albums make some similar effects in last years: drew gress - "7 black butterflies", dave binney - "south", vijay iyer - "tragicomic", scott colley - "architect of the silent moment", edward simon - "la bikina", andrew hill - "dusk"
have a nice and obsessive listenings...."