Ralph Lalama grew up in West Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, graduated from The Dana School of Music of Youngstown State University (Ohio) and was recognized there for his remarkable talent by the legendary Thad Jones, who encouraged him to come to New York. Since that time, Lalama has reached a dignified status as a widely respected master of the tenor through his achievements in the big bands of Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Carla Bley and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra - now the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra - with whom he is a featured soloist on Monday nights at New York's Village Vanguard. His experience is vast and varied and includes appearances with Barry Harris, Harold Danko, Mel Torme, Carmen McRae, Tom Harrell and Joe Morello. He has recorded with Joe Morello, the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, and the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band (under the direction of Jon Faddis). He appears on two Joe Lovano nonet releases on Blue Note: the 2001 Grammy Award-winning, 52nd Street Themes, and the 2003 release, On This Day...At The Vanguard.
With a prolific discography and in addition to numerous recordings as a sideman, Lalama has led his own projects for the Dutch label, Criss-Cross Jazz. 1999 saw his fifth, Ralph Lalama: Music for Grown-Ups, featuring notables Richard Wyands at the piano, Peter Washington on bass and Kenny Washington on drums. Lalama is out front booting things along with that cavernous sound of his and a swing and swagger that is infectious. (Chris Hovan, allaboutjazz). Circle Line (1997) garnered 4½ stars from Down Beat Magazine and secured him a spot in the magazine's Top CDs of the Decade (Dec. 99). You Know What I Mean (1995) received wide acclaim and his Momentum CD with Kenny Barron placed him at No. 2 on New York's WBGO playlist for that year, just behind tenor giant Joe Henderson.
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Lalama is a grand, modern-minded storyteller who knows
bebop, and other stuff, too. He has his own sound, husky with
a bit of sparkle, going from fat, low-end belches to whispery
high tones. His melodies are authoritative and warmly
melodic, his time drummer-sure. In other words, a first-class
jazz soloist. --Zan Stewart, Down Beat