“Sweet Sounds Downtown” Will Have Added Shine With Flute Master Ali Ryerson

Ali Ryerson 1

A snazzy and passionate flute player who performs in the Westfield, NJ Sweet Sounds Downtown event, Ali Ryerson is an author (Jazz Flute Practice Method Book), contributing writer (Flute Talk and DownBeat), educator (an annual, week-long master class at Hidden Valley Music Seminars in California) and an amazing performer. Her new CD is “Café Colombo” with the Bert Dalton Brazil Project.

On this album, her adroit syncopation and flights of fancy up and down the flute keys make “Brazilian Divertimento 2” come alive, and her honeyed tones and warm vibrato on the track “Fettucini Manfredo” imbue strength and meaning. In the jungle-vibed “Eu So Feliz” Ryerson glows, playing in unison for a bit with the vocalist. Her flute solos are always executed with heart and do great service to the music, giving it character and pizzazz.

The “Sweet Sounds Downtown” Jazz Festival will be held from July 3 – August 28, 2018. Ryerson performs there on August 28. For more information on the event, visit https://www.facebook.com/downtownwestfieldnj/.  

How many years have you been performing at the Westfield Sweet Sounds Downtown Jazz Festival?

This will be my 5th year!

Why have you participated?

My good friend, the drummer Karl Latham, first introduced me to Beth Brenner, the lady who books the festival. I fell in love with Westfield and we started playing it every year! Now, we have friends who come to hear us every summer (and not just from Westfield), so it’s become a fun reunion for all of us.

How do you choose the music you’ll play? 

“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” seems to be the perfect formula! A few great jazz standards, an original composition or two, a tune borrowed from the Beatles or the like, and a blues thrown in there, in some form or another.

What is distinct about the town or the audience that you enjoy?

Every summer, when I come back to play at Sweet Sounds Downtown, it feels like I’ve come back to play for my friends. I just love that!  

Have you been to other civic events like this? 

Yes. Some of the downtown festivals I’ve played are Berks Jazz Festival in Reading, PA, and First Night in Danbury, CT. Other events have been a bit further away, like Monterey, CA and Belgium.

What equipment do you need to perform outdoors at this type of event?

We bring our amps and microphones, and we’re good to go. 

Is flute especially hard to convey in open spaces?

Thanks to the amplification, playing outside can actually be fun!

Who are the members of your ensemble?

Mike DeMicco on guitar, Pete Levin or Rob Aries on keyboard, Mark Egan or Charlie Knicely on electric bass and Karl Latham on drums.

What’s the most common question from the event-goers?

When I play the alto flute, I often forget to mention what it is, so a lot of people ask me after the set. 

When will you perform this year?

August 28 (raindate August 29).

What will be different for you this year?

I’m happy to report that bassist Mark Egan and drummer Karl Latham are on board with me again, so no change there. The fourth member is yet TBA. I update our repertoire for each performance. Every year I discover new tunes I love to play, so I try to add a few of these, along with some originals and of course a few jazz standards, which are like old friends to us – we always seem to find something new to say!

Overall impression of this event? 

I absolutely LOVE playing this festival! Westfield is really a sweet town, and there’s such a great vibe with the audience. I hope to play it for years to come.

Your most recent CD?

My most recent recording is called “Café Colombo – The Music of Manfredo Fest.” I recorded it with some wonderful players I work with whenever I’m in New Mexico – Bert Dalton’s “Brazil Project.” Manfredo Fest was a brilliant Brazilian pianist/composer. Bert introduced me to his music a few years ago. I absolutely fell in love with Manfredo’s music, and we decided to record an album together right after we finished up a tour. It was a joy to do this project, I’m very proud of it. (Yes, I’ll bring some copies to Westfield!) 

And some hot news! The CD “Cafe Colombo” has won the 2018 New Mexico Music Awards, a state-wide friendly competition for NM-created works, in the Best Instrumental Performance (Brazilian Dorian Dream) category.

What do you want people to know about your music? 

How much we all love playing together. Please come out and hear us, it’s much easier than putting this into words!

Other comments?

Debbie, thank YOU so much for doing this interview, supporting live music AND this wonderful summertime outdoor festival in Westfield!

For more information, visit www.aliryerson.com.

Photos courtesy of and with permission of Ali Ryerson.
© Debbie Burke 2018

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