Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Lalama, Ralph (Nofrey)

Lalama, Ralph (Nofrey), tenor sax, clarinet, flute; b. Aliquippa, PA January 1951. He's brother of pianist Dave (b. 1954). His grandfather, Nofrey, Sr., once the State Auditor of Pennsylvania, was an accomplished clarinetist and alto saxophonist who performed in various ensembles around Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh.  He gave Ralph clarinet lessons at the age of 9. Ralph played in the Sons of Italy band, a concert band that met every Wednesday where his grandfather sat first chair and he sat last chair. His father, Nofrey, Jr., was a full-time professional drummer (not jazz). His father met their mother, Jenny, a contralto singer, on the bandstand -- three years later they were married. He started playing the tenor at 14, and listened to his father's Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt and Stan Getz records. Soon he got gigs playing the music of James Brown or the Temptations, and by 16 was working six nights a week, and sitting in with a lot of organ players, playing the blues.

At 18 he got his first theory training in the music program at Youngstown State University, an hour from Pittsburgh. He also met Tony Leonardi, a bass player who used to play with Woody Herman, and had grown up with Sal Nistico and Chuck Mangione in upstate New York, who started him studying Parker, Rollins and Coltrane. He was featured a lot with the college band, and he and his brother Dave played standards four nights a week at Cherry's Top of the Mall.  He used to drive an hour-and-a-half to Cleveland, to the Smiling Dog, to hear Sonny Stitt, Getz, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock's Headhunters, and Freddie Hubbard with Junior Cook. After 5 years on scholarship at YSU (earning a BA?), Thad Jones did a clinic in late May of 1975, and Ralph played in quintet with him and soloed with the big band. Jones encouraged him to move to N.Y., which he did on September 7, 1975. After only two weeks, Jones hired him for a gig with Walter Norris, George Mraz and Mel Lewis for three nights at William Paterson College in New Jersey. He then worked with Woody Herman (1976-77), with Buddy Rich (1980-81), while subbing with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra; he took second tenor chair with the Mel Lewis Band in 1983, and remains a regular member of its descendent, the Vanguard Orchestra. 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's been with the Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra since 1995, and travels around the world as a soloist with local rhythm sections. He's run ongoing jam sessions in New York Thursdays at Visiones (through 1997) and Sundays at the St. Mark's Bar since 1991. 

When not busy touring the world, he dedicates his time to teaching younger players as an adjunct professor at New York University and SUNY Purchase. He has instructed an international collective of students through Manhattan School of Music's Marca Jazz Camp in Venice, Italy. He also offers private instruction. One of his students, Jonathan Lee, received the 2003 National Down Beat Award for Best High School Jazz Soloist.
His partner is singer Nicole Pasternak.

Feelin' And Dealin' (1990); Momentum (1991); Circle Line (1997); You know What I Mean; Music For Grown-ups
As sideperson:
With Big Band & Large Ensemble: Tom Boras: Three Houses; Carnegie Hall Jazz Band: The Carnegie Hall Jazz Band; Eastwood After Hours: Live At Carnegie Hall; Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra / Vanguard Jazz Orchestra: To You (A Tribute To Mel Lewis), The Definitive Thad Jones, Vol. 1, The Definitive Thad Jones, Vol. 2, 20 Years At The Village Vanguard, Soft Lights, Hot Music, Thad Jones Legacy, Lickety Split: The Music Of Jim Mcneely, Can I Persuade You?; Glenn Miller Orchestra: Up Where We Belong ; Buddy Rich: The Buddy Rich Big Band; Danny D'imperio: Blues For Philly Joe, The Outlaw, Glass Enclosure, Hip To It; Music Masters: Jazz Sampler, Jazz Collection, Vol. 2, Jazz Valentine, In The Mood For Love; Bill Kirchner Nonet: Infant Eyes, What It Is To Be Frank, Live In Concert: Trance Dance; Joe Lovano Nonet: 52nd Street Themes (2001), On This Day...At The Vanguard (2003); Jean-Loup Longnon: Jean-Loup Longnon And His New York Orchestra;
With Small Ensemble:
Bopera House (Jim Marshall & Tardo Hammer): Bopera House; Steve Brien: Token Entry; Steve Brown: Night Waves; Rob Bulkey Quintet: Birdlike; Alejandro Espinosa Quartet: Like Someone In Love; Greg Hatza: In My Pocket; Greg Hatza Organization: Snake Eyes; Alex Leonard: Down In The Depths; David Leonardt Jazz Group: Plays Gershwin; Pete Malinverni: The Spirit; Renee Manning: As Is, Uhm-Uhm-Uhmmmm; Michael Melito Quintet: My Conception; Mark Merino: Deeply Rooted; Joe Morello: Morello Standard Time, Going Places; Nicole Pasternak: Don't Go, Don't Leave, Please Stay; Alan Simon: Rainsplash, Without A Song, The Present; Gary Smulyan: Saxophone Mosaic, Tenor Triangle With Melvin Rhyne Trio, Tell It Like It Is, Aztec Blues; Michael Weiss: Presenting Michael Weiss; Richie Vitale: Live At Smalls, Shake It!

Ted Panken, notes to Circle Line

Contact information:
For bookings call: (914) 337-3994
Email: ralphlalama@hotmail.com

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