April 20, 2024


Website about Jazz and Blues

Interview with Ralph​ Lalama: Looking back on working with so many great musicians has given me enormous satisfaction

Interview with saxophonist Ralph​ Lalama. An interview by email in writing.

Dear readers, get to know more about our US/EU Jazz – Blues Festivals and the activities of our US/EU Jazz – Blues Association in the capitals of Europe, we will soon publish program for 2024, enjoy in the July – August – Brussels, Berlin, Prague, Warsaw, Sofia, new addreses this year, also in Amsterdam, Budapest and Liverpool.

JazzBluesNews.com: – Before we jump into anything historical, can you tell us about what we can expect musically this evening?

Ralph​ Lalama: – On any given night I perform, the audience can expect an honest expression of the jazz sound ideal, because I strive to be honest in all that I do. I am constantly searching and exploring. I take the audience and my fellow musicians along for the ride. Most important to this musical journey is the ongoing interaction between myself and my fellow musicians.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2023

JBN: – Are there sub-genres within the jazz field that you tend to stay away from or focus on?

RL: – I try to stay away from sub-genres that are contrived, boring and that are harmonically, rhythmically and melodically stagnant. The antithesis of that is what I focus on. This could be anything from Bebop, to Latin, to funk…anything that has a swinging, triplet or a duple feeling.

JBN: – When your first desire to become involved in the music was & what do you learn about yourself from music?

RL: – My first desire to become involved in music was when I was nine years old. My grandfather gave me one of his clarinets. This led me to find self-discipline, how to organize my time, my thoughts, and the musical content. Everything I could absorb I took in and integrated it into my playing. My first encounter with improvisation came out of necessity. I was eleven years old, playing duo with an accordion player at my Catholic school. In honor of the priest, Father Michael, who was leaving the parish, we were asked to play, “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore.” The ceremony went for so many minutes and we had to keep repeating the melody. I found myself improvising on the melody…and the rest is history!

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JBN: – What happened when you first heard Bird? Did it make an immediate impact on you?

RL: – Yes. Affirmative. Without a doubt. Life-changing!!!

JBN: – What has given you the most satisfaction musically?

RL: – I’ve gained enormous musical satisfaction through playing with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Joe Lovano Nonet, Carnegie Hall Jazz Band under the direction of Jon Faddis, Buddy Rich, and Woody Herman. Moreover, I’ve had the opportunity to play such great arrangements by so many incredible composers/arrangers, such as Thad Jones, Jim McNeely, Slide Hampton, Bob Brookmeyer, just to name a few. In the small group setting, I’ve had the privilege to record with Barry Harris, Kenny Barron, George Cables, Peter Bernstein, Tom Harrell, Dennis Irwin, Peter Washington, Kenny Washington, and Joe Morello. Looking back on working with so many great musicians has given me enormous satisfaction.

JBN: – From the musical and feeling point of view is there any difference between old and great jazzmans and young?

RL: – The short, simple answer is: The older guys told more of a story from the heart and the younger players tell their story from the head. However, I hate to generalize because I am a teacher and am inspired every day by the dedication and enthusiasm of the students. They are the future of jazz, and they take it very seriously.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Association 2023

JBN: – What advice would you give to aspiring musicians thinking of pursuing a career?

RL: – Respect yourself. Respect the music. Develop friendships with other musicians. Those relationships will last a lifetime…and beyond. Learn how to communicate with business people, e.g. promoters, publicists and critics.

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Interview by Simon Sarg

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