Ralph Alessi

Hissy Fit

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Trumpeter Alessi recorded these tracks for kicks, not intending it to be a CD, but here it is. The group, whom he calls Modular Theatre, adopts a modern progressive stance that's free-jazz based. The cello of Hank Roberts does not substitute for a bass; it stands on its own. Saxophonist Peter Epstein and drummer Shane Endsley support Alessi's ideas, and Carl Walker reads poetry here and there. There are three longish tracks. "The Mentor" sports free discourse prior to unison trumpet and sax lines á la Ornette Coleman. Walker waxes in sing-song fashion rather than recitation on "what lurks in the minds of men" over an odd meter 5/4 funk, ended by a vamp jam. "My Worst Habit," has Walker "tired of winter" and longing for his sweetheart. A diffused sax and trumpet with raked and scraped cello overtones lead to Alessi's racehorse improv setting up the reading. "Ornette's Advice" (heard previously on Epstein's CD The Invisible) has churning drums which work as a fuse for the collective ensemble's striking harmolodics. This track also features a free bridge and a long drum solo á la Max Roach. "Ice Man" is a languid cello/distant vocal duet, and "Litost" is a soft, clarion horn tone poem. The CD is bookended by two different takes of "Irony": the first is a slow, clipped funk with haunting cello and hovering horns; the latter is a tango funk with far off vocalizing that comes into focus to deal with the virtues in "the power of love." A tip-of-the-iceberg effort, Alessi is emerging as one of the most important new trumpeters and composers of the new century.

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