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Interview:
Vet bassist Ralphe Armstrong says it's his "turn"
 

By GARY GRAFF
21st Century Media/Digital Media First

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The performances on Ralphe Armstrong's new album may be 17 years old, but the renowned Detroit bassist is confident it holds up.

"They gave me the tapes, and I was like, 'Wow...'," Armstrong says of "HomeBASS," which was recorded during the 1996 Detroit Jazz Festival with his group I.D. "I was dumbfounded, like, 'Man, this is some good stuff on here.' " And credit for that, he says, goes to the players, all but one of whom are fellow Detroiters.

"There's something with Detroit," notes Armstrong, the son of American folk artist Howard "Louie Bluie" Armstrong, who in addition to his own work has played with Frank Zappa, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jean-Luc Ponty, Herbie Hancock, Santana and many others. "Detroit is just full of talent. I don't know what the hell it is with this place. (The musicians) are very aggressive, and they know music. They can play all genres of music, too. They're not just one dimensional -- that's the key to being a musician that drives a Lincoln Town Car and one that has a bus card."

Armstrong has also taught music at a number of colleges, and he's recently done sessions for Aretha Franklin, saxophonist James Carter and vocalist Liz McComb. He's also planning a new solo album, too, nothing that "now it's my turn. I'm going to do some of my own music.

"This record ('HomeBASS') is doing really good, I think because it's a live recording, and today you don't hear a lot of live jazz recording. It's spontaneous; if you make a mistake you can't say, 'Oh, we gotta stop this' or 'Let's try again.' But the energy is there, and that makes all the difference in the world."

The Ralphe Armstrong Quartet performs Tuesday, Dec. 31, and Thursday, Jan. 2 at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe, 97 Kercheval, Grosse Pointe. Cover is $25 on New Year's Eve, $15 on Thursday. Call 313-882-5299 or visit www.dirtydogjazz.com.

Web Site: www.dirtydogjazz.com

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