…Offers tantalising hints of where his continuing journey may yet lead.

ECM 2722 / 488 3263

Ralph Alessi (trumpet); Florian Weber (piano);  Bänz Oester (double bass); Gerry Hemingway (drums)

Recorded June 2021

With his extraordinary series of albums as leader for ECM, this is Alessi’s fourth, the trumpeter is forever moving forward. With such momentum comes new musical opportunities, and these always inevitably lead to the formation of new groups and musical relationships.

What is interesting here is how relationships intertwine, paths that have once been trodden often cross again, as do musical associations and it is this crossing of paths that Alessi has used to fine effect in bringing together the musicians heard on this new recording, and in a new context.

With some new music the trumpeter finds new inspiration and methods of communication. His association with pianist Florian Weber continues to flourish and deepen, and it is the voices of Alessi and Weber that introduce the arrival of the new compositions presented here. Having played together for more than two decades in various combinations and in other’s bands and more importantly as a duo.

The balance between composition and improvisation have also played an integral role in the pair’s music and the opening two pieces, ‘Hynagogic’ and ‘Old Baby’ are improvisations that show a remarkable level of empathy, that are also heard on two further duets. The brief ‘Ire’ hints at a more abstract method of communication, while the concluding ‘Tubleweed’ reverts to a lyrical dialogue with Alessi’s full open and expressive trumpet sound taking the lead over Weber’s increasingly rocky path.

When the quartet do come together, and first herd on ‘Migratory Party’ one is immediately struck by how the group continue along the route mapped out by Alessi and Weber on the preceding tunes while having the space and freedom to inject their own voices. This quickly coalesces into a new quartet sound that is at once lyrical and exploratory.

Drawing on acquaintance old and new, Alessi and drummer Gerry Hemingway had only previously played together once several years ago, and bassist Oester and Hemingway have played together countless times over a twenty year period. It is therefore of little surprise that the music has a depth and richness that is conducive to group interplay of such subtle nuances and complexity.

Bassist and trumpeter met for the first time at the session, and yet quickly formed an understanding that is graceful and elegantly showcased on ‘Diagonal Lady’ in which Oester’s double bass sets out the shape of the composition in his opening statement, before being joined by Alessi whose exquisitely weighted and placed phrases are a delight.

Trumpet and drums kick off the tumultuous exchanges on ‘His Hopes, His Fears, His Tears’ that hint at the abstraction heard on ‘Ire. Hemingway, however, with the assistance of Oester keeps the piece rolling along through the abstraction to some exuberant phrases from Alessi, before Weber once again leads the music back to a more unsettled feeling.

Another new and important chapter in the burgeoning career of a musician whose values of strong compositions coupled with that most important ingredient of group empathy and interaction. This has once again produced music that not merely states where he has come from but offers tantalising hints of where his continuing journey may yet lead.

Reviewed by Nick Lea