Big Ive sits down with the legendary Ralphe Armstrong for an up-close and personal chat. For those that know or have seen Ralphe know when he talks, you should listen!
In 1973, Ralphe Armstrong – a 17-year-old Detroit kid just out of high school tried out for a gig with the Mahavishnu Orchestra. “The other person who auditioned at the same time was Jaco Pastorius,” he says. “Jaco had a different sound then. He had an old, beat-up fretted Fender Precision, as I recall. I got the job because I played fretless.”
Armstrong was classically trained during his four years at Michigan’s Interlochen School of Fine Arts, where he studied the Josef Harvey method; later, he transferred his acoustic technique to electric while also putting up some ferocious funk on a trio of powerful mid-’70s Mahavishnu recordings: Apocalypse, Visions of the Emerald Beyond, and Inner Worlds (all on Columbia and reissued in the ’90s as part of the label’s Legacy series).
Following his three-year Mahavishnu stint, Armstrong joined a stellar fusion group led by violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, a former Mahavishnu bandmate who had also appeared on Apocalypse and Visions of the Emerald Beyond. Ralphe can be heard ripping it up alongside guitarists Allan Holdsworth and Daryl Stuermer and drummer Steve Smith on Ponty’s 1977 landmark Enigmatic Ocean [Atlantic] as well as the 1978 follow-up Live [Rhino], which Ralphe calls the “best example of my electric bass playing on record.”