Ralphe Armstrong

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Mensagem por Tarcísio Caetano em Sab Maio 28, 2011 1:18 pm

Tocou com a Mahavishnu Orchestra e com o violinista Jean-Luc Ponty. Inspirado nas palavras do Maurício_Expressão, sobre o John Entwinstle, que é o som que ele procura; o som do Ralphe, é o que eu procuro.

Coloco esta entrevista, pois é uma fonte excelente de dados sobre este tremendo baixista; e, podemos aproveitar "afinando" nosso inglês.

GibsonBass Interview: Ralphe Armstrong
Introduction

By John Fertig, June 2007

Ralphe Armstrong was born into a family of musicians, and with the help of classical training as a child, he was a professional musician before he had finished his teens. His talent caught the eye of Gibson; he was chosen to endorse their basses from the mid 1970s, and as an advisor, he had input on new products such as the Ripper, G-3, RD Artist and Victory.
His early career placed him with a wide range of musicians, most notably jazz fusion acts Mahavishnu Orchestra and Jean-Luc Ponty. Later, he took time out to raise his children, but soon returned, playing jazz, funk, and even hip-hop, with the likes of Eddie Harris, James Carter, Curtis Mayfield and D-12.
Ralphe talks about his playing, musical career, Gibson endorsement, and of course, his Gibson bass guitars.
GibsonBass You come from a musical family: your late father was a famous musician, artist, & storyteller, and your brother also plays bass?
Ralphe Armstrong My father’s name was Howard Armstrong and his stage name was “Louie Bluie”. He was a violinist and passed, I guess, in 2001; he lived to be ninety-five years old and he played all over the world. The man played everywhere! My aunt played guitar. My brother Tommy played trumpet and was a good friend of Miles Davis in Chicago. He also played bass with my Dad.

GibsonBass He played upright bass?

Ralphe Armstrong Yes, a bass violin.

GibsonBass I understand they did some documentaries about your father, including a PBS TV series...

Ralphe Armstrong Yes, PBS. And he was given a National Heritage award, given to him by Charles Carault. He was a Tennessee violinist and an artist. That’s my dad. He was also a famous storyteller as well.

GibsonBass What was the musical background that lead you to become a bass player?

Ralphe Armstrong My uncle Lee Crocket (LC) Armstrong was a bass player. I wanted to be like him. My father tried me on the violin when I was five, but I never liked it. Every time I picked it up it squeaked. My uncle had a big house and drove a Cadillac and I wanted to be like him. I ended up learning the bass. As a matter of fact, he made me a bass when I was 7 years old. He put a German violin neck, bass violin neck, and put it on a square body.

GibsonBass I understand you were classically trained?

Ralphe Armstrong Yes, I went to Michigan's Interlochen School of Fine Arts. I played The Pious of Rome by Rossini, The Fantasy by Domenico Dragonetti. I played in the World Youth Symphony Orchestra, I played all over. I also played with the London Symphony Orchestra with John McLaughlin, and I had lessons from Ron Carter and Buster Williams. They taught me so much about the bass, without those two guys I don’t know what I would do. Ron, I consider one of the greatest in the world. He’s my teacher; so is Buster.

GibsonBass At 17 you joined Mahavishnu Orchestra, but you played with the progressive rock act The New McGuire Sisters first. How did it all come about?

Ralphe Armstrong What happened, I went to up to Miles Davis’s bass player, Michael Henderson, who told these guys about me. That was Narada Michael Walden and a guy named Sandy Torano. I went up to Connecticut and ended up playing with the group. It’s funny, but this has never been told before, but when I was first with Sandy and Narada, there was this music store in the town, (Canaan Connecticut, which is a very expensive place to live in now) Al had this bass, he would let me use his equipment and I ended up using this bass. I wish I could find one today. It was a Gibson Studio Les Paul Bass [Les Paul Triumph bass]. It had in and out phase switches and was a light colored mahogany finish. That was a good sounding bass. I loved the sound of that. That was the first Gibson bass I ever played at a gig with a group. But the first Gibson bass I was introduced to was by a guy named Jerome Rimson- as a matter of fact he was Van Morrison’s bass player at the time, in Detroit. It was made like an ES 335. I think Steve Swallow played one.

GibsonBass That’s the EB-2

Ralphe Armstrong EB-2’s had a warm sound. A lot of cats in Detroit were string bass players and wanted to emulate that sound.

GibsonBass Then you and Narada Michael Walden joined Mahavishnu Orchestra, and you used Fender basses? (Later, in a 1976 issue of Guitar Player, you mention a Jazz body with a fretless Precision neck?)

Ralphe Armstrong I found a Fender Precision, you just can’t find that bass. I haven’t seen any. That was the one I was using. That was the one Jaco saw. The only reason I got a fretless bass was because of Jamerson and Motown. He kept telling me about how he had the prototype. I ended up playing the fretless bass and that’s how I got the gig with McLaughlin, because he saw me play the fretless Fender.
One reason I went over to Gibson basses was I had so much trouble out of the Fender bridges. They were terrible. They made a lot of bad guitars. I don’t want to put all Fenders down. I got a plain Precision. It’s one of the best basses I’ve ever played. The bridges would always drop on me, they would fall! I got tired of that!
Sometime they had the bridges out of sync with the neck, a lot of bad quality. That was one of the reasons I went over to Gibson.

GibsonBass Was the spiritual aspect of McLaughlin's music and outlook was an important factor when recording those albums?

Ralphe Armstrong Definitely, we would meditate and I’m getting back to that, a spiritual way of playing. We are living in a very stressful world today.

GibsonBass Is it true that you and Jaco auditioned for a gig with the Mahavishnu Orchestra in 1973, with you getting the gig?

Ralphe Armstrong He did audition and I got the job because I had the fretless bass!
That’s how Jaco saw the fretless bass. Me and James Jameson were the first cats that had fretless basses. You could not find them so Jaco went and ripped the frets out of his bass. He was my friend, he was a beautiful person. He was really nice to me.

GibsonBass What was it like being a young kid thrown into Mahavishnu Orchestra? At 17 was it a bit intimidating?

Ralphe Armstrong Not at all, I was classically trained.

GibsonBass So the first Gibson bass you tried was the EB-2?

Ralphe Armstrong I always liked the sound of it. Being a bass violinist, I like its mellow tone. Some guys had it sounding mushy, but the guys in Detroit that played around here, they had a sound! Labella strings, they had a big sound going through Ampegs.

GibsonBass You soon got a contract endorsing Gibson basses. How did that come about?

Ralphe Armestrong How I got with Gibson guitars was with John McLaughlin, he took me to Lincolnwood, Illinois, in 1975. I met Bruce Bolen and designer Walt Johnston and they asked me to write down what I wanted; and that’s how they came up with this bass called the Ripper and the G-3 with three pickups. And we had the RD Artist, that was a great bass. It was a whole lot of wood and a whole lot of sound! It had a hell of a sound. I had a mahogany fretless RD too, with an ebony fingerboard!

GibsonBass Tell me about your fretless Ripper you used.

Ralphe Armstrong Oh, that bass had a good sound. It had a real deep sound; then it had a very high legato, which is very long. I could do glissandos on it. It had a lot of sustain.

GibsonBass I noticed you had ebony and maple Rippers; did you find any differences?

Ralphe Armstrong The ebony is always closer to the bass violin, the tonality of it.

GibsonBass Tell me more about the RD Artists.

Ralphe Armstrong That to me, it was one of the best ones ever made. A lot of people did not like it because it was heavy, but I liked because it was big and it had a long fingerboard; you can play a G harmonic on it and it had a big sound. It was a well-made piece of machinery.

GibsonBass Ever use the Moog options on it?

Ralphe Armstrong Oh, of course! I used everything on that bass!

GibsonBass Did you have more than one Mahogany RD? Where is it now?

Ralphe Armstrong No, just that one and a maple fretted one. I sold it years ago to Marion Hayden. She still has it today; she still plays it. She's an excellent musician. She also teaches at University of Michigan.

GibsonBass Another bass you endorsed was the Gibson Victory; appearing in a 1981 advert along with a number of other musicians.

Ralphe Armstrong (thinking) Oh yeah, the Victory, a great maple bass. All Gibsons are great sounding basses. It was heavy, but that never bothered me. I had the two pickup one, I had a fretted & fretless version.

GibsonBass Do you still own your original Gibson basses or other Gibson basses? What basses do you play now?

Ralphe Armstrong No, I got rid of them, but I still have the last two they made for a Jimi Hendrix and me special. You know they are making some really great basses now. I really want to get a 5 string Thunderbird. That bass is amazing. They make some fine instruments. I play some Fenders: a P bass, a Jazz Bass fretless. Also a Thunderbird, the black Les Paul with Bartolinis, an acoustic Hohner bass and a Yamaha 6 string.

GibsonBass After Mahavishnu, you played with Frank Zappa.

Ralphe Armstrong After Mahavishnu, I played with Santana, and then Frank Zappa. We did some recording. I was originally supposed to play with Santana, but John McLaughlin had leeway and talked him out of hiring me. Santana bought my first class airline ticket to go out to San Francisco to record. I also played with Jeff Beck. I played with so many people man, I need to sit down and document.

GibsonBass What was it like working with Frank?

Ralphe Armstrong He was a disciplinarian, a lot of hard work. Like being in an army. He gave me a lot of freedom, though. He was cool. We did a tribute; me and Napoleon Murphy Brock were together recently; we played a jazz festival last year.

Jean-Luc Ponty: Live. Ralphe describes this album as the "best example of my electric bass playing on record."

Jean-Luc Ponty: Enigmatic Ocean

GibsonBass You are also known for your work with Jean-Luc Ponty.

Ralphe Armstrong I met Jean-Luc in Mahavishnu, and about two years after it broke up, he started a new band.

GibsonBass Did Jean-Luc let you play what you wanted, or was everything composed?

Ralphe Armstrong He had things written out but I was able to come up with my own bass parts.

GibsonBass You did some cutting edge stuff with Jean-Luc Ponty. He certainly gave you a lot of space.

Ralphe Armstrong Wait till you hear my fretless recording from 1998. It’s coming out on my web site and I will have it for sale soon. I am with Harmony Network and it will be for sale soon. Live At The Ford Festival. I just played at New York at Carnegie hall with James Carter, playing string bass.

GibsonBass You've played with a lot more people than we've talked about so far. Would you care to name a few more?

Ralphe Armstrong I played with Marshall Tucker Band, Louie Bellson, Steve Allen, Elliot Easton of the Cars, Kenny Burrell, Curtis Mayfield- I did his last CD New World Order. I did something with Lenny White, a classical aura with the bow.

GibsonBass Tell me about your use of effects.

Ralphe Armstrong I was a big fan of Jimi Hendrix; I used this thing called Maestro Bass Brassmaster, but now [I use] Digitech.

GibsonBass What kind of strings do you like to use?

Ralphe Armstrong I like half wounds for fretless, with low action. With a fretted bass with funk, I like round wounds

GibsonBass I read you dropped out of the music scene to raise your family in Detroit, but play in local Detroit music clubs?

Ralphe Armstrong Right now I’m back & traveling. I'm with a new company and am working on a recording project with my self and Narada Michael Walden. We're calling it the “Fusion Reunion”. Were going to have some concerts, and have Wallace Roney do some trumpet and Vernon Reid (from Living Colour) to help too. Vernon came and played at the festival two years ago. Maybe George Duke. We might do something in October.

GibsonBass What’s your Musical direction today?

Ralphe Armstrong I played with D-12; you know, Eminem’s group. I did two recordings. I play hip-hop. I'm not into one thing; I’m like Miles: I got to keep pushing forward. He even had had me wear gaiters & gangster hats and triple OG and a DJ. These young kids- young guys have a fit, seeing me play all kinds of stuff, man.
Ralphe Armstrong 66750200


Com a Mahavishnu Orchestra:
Ralphe Armstrong Ralphearmstrong13


Com Jean-Luc Ponty:
Ralphe Armstrong Ralphearmstrong5


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Tarcísio Caetano
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Mensagem por Tarcísio Caetano em Sab Set 15, 2012 11:59 am

Falando no Ralphe Armstrong com o JAZZigo e o Aureliano(a partir daqui https://www.contrabaixobr.com/t2615-ebs-octabass-first-edition#512347 ), fiquei com vontade de "ressucitar" este tópico, pois este é um dos GRANDES de nosso instrumento:
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Mensagem por Edu Fettermann em Seg Set 17, 2012 12:11 am

Esse som da Mahavishnu Orchestra era fenomenal!
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Ralphe Armstrong Empty Re: Ralphe Armstrong

Mensagem por Tarcísio Caetano em Ter Jan 08, 2013 8:20 am





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Mensagem por Tarcísio Caetano em Dom Dez 02, 2018 12:14 pm

Desde a época em que abri este tópico, e já era fã do cara, minha admiração só aumentou!!!
Então, vou dar uma de "cientista maluco" e ressuscito este tópico:



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