The jazz world has its share of dogmatic individuals who are more than happy to tell other people what they think are "correct" and "incorrect" ways of playing jazz. But there are many improvisers who ignore the dogmatists and insist on keeping their options open -- improvisers who are smart enough to realize that learning and benefiting from "the tradition" does not mean that one cannot learn and benefit from Ornette Coleman and Roscoe Mitchell as well. Trumpeter/flugelhornist Ralph Alessi is an example of a jazzman who has been keeping his options open, and that outlook continues to benefit him artistically on Look. This inside/outside date is avant-garde but not radically avant-garde; the material (all of it written by Alessi himself) is left of center but not far to the left. In other words, Look is by no means an exercise in blistering atonality, but it isn't an album of Young Lions playing hard bop versions of Cole Porter standards, either. Actually, Look is far from blistering; some of Alessi's performances, in fact, are downright reflective, drawing on trumpet influences ranging from Miles Davis to Don Cherry to Lester Bowie. Even during its most abstract moments, this acoustic effort is always musical -- and thankfully, Alessi has a sympathetic team of players to help him get the job done. Most of the 59-minute CD finds Alessi leading a core quintet that also includes pianist Andy Milne, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Mark Ferber, but special guest Ravi Coltrane is featured on tenor sax on four of the selections: "Old Beady Eyes," "Platform Velvet," "It's Just a Toy" and the title song. Look is a solid example of Alessi and his colleagues using both the inside and the outside to their creative advantage.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson