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June 2007

Ralph Alessi
This Against That

The moniker This Against That refers back to the title of Ralph Alessi’s 2002 album, but it could also refer to the contrasting figures that the trumpeter blends together in his music. The rhythm section seems to play in a time that trails the horns in “It’s Just a Toy.” Alessi’s warm tone sounds a little tart on the otherwise gentle ballad “Brown Hat.” “Old Beady Eyes” has a tricky rhythm, as well as counter melodies from Alessi and tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, and the band plays it cool instead of pouncing on a heavy riff and beating it into the ground. In all of these cases, the seemingly opposing elements fit together successfully.

This Against That includes pianist Andy Milne, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Mark Ferber, with Coltrane appearing on four tracks. Look’s 12 tracks average around five minutes each. Within those relatively short spaces of time, the group makes expressive statements, especially on ballads like “Hands” and “Words, Actions.” The title track, pulsed by riff with manipulated piano strings, and “Sir,” with a spacey mix of mallets on cymbals and bowed bass, could have used more time, as Alessi and Coltrane sound like they’re just beginning to take off. Still what they do in that short time figures into a rewarding set of material.

Originally published in June 2007
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