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Ralph Humphrey


Born in Berkeley CA in 1944. He recorded with the Don Ellis orchestra in 1968 while still a student at California State College, Northridge, and joined the band in 1969, staying with Ellis until 1973. Recordings from the period amply demonstrate his command of the unusual time signatures which characterized the Ellis group. He also contributed a chapter to Ellis's publication The New Rhythm Book (1972). Ralph later joined Frank Zappa (1973-1974), and still later began freelancing in LA, working with Tony Bennett, Joe Williams, Carmen McRae, Clare Fischer, and John Klemmer and recording with L. Subramaniam, Ray Pizzi, Wayne Shorter (Atlantis) and Manhattan Transfer among many others. In 1982 he joined Free Flight, a group noted for jazz versions of classical pieces, and later during the decade he toured with the Toshiko Akiyoshi Orchestra.
Ralph is an in-demand session musician in Los Angeles, working in movies, television, jingles and recording sessions.

His television work includes soundtrack work for "Deep Space Nine", "Voyager" and "Dawsons Creek". He's also been involved in most of the animated shows for Warner Brothers over the last 5-6 years, including work on "Animaniacs", "Freakazoid", "Pinky and the Brain", "Tweety and Sylvester" and "Histeria". Other animated television programs he's worked on include "The Simpsons" and "King of the Hill". He also teaches at the Los Angeles Music Academy and gives private lessons as time allows. He has also contributed articles to Modern Drummer.
I have a friend who studied at git (guitar institute of technology, i think), three years ago. he told me that ralph was teaching drumming at pit (percussion institute of technology), and referred to him as a "short, very kind guy with a big beard. ralph's specialty obviously was polyrythmics (which it should be if you've played with fz). he also had a band with other guys at the school, called outside men, who played "interesting, experimental music".
my friend also told me that ralph played with michael ruff, an american fm-rock guitarist.

I saw ralph humphrey 2 years ago at the namm show (national association of music merchants) demoing drums for some drum manufacturer. i knew of his work on apostrophe so when his demo was finished i asked him about it. he rolled his eyes as if he had forgotten the recording and then it came to him and he smiled as he nodded and confirmed that it was he who beat the skins on 'st. alphonzo's pancake breakfast'.

if you want to find out where ralph got the class that he brought to zappa's stuff, check him out with the don ellis big band from the early '70's. a very young humphrey shows where he got the polyrythmic chops to work with frank. ellis never did anything in common time, and humphrey's work in this monster big band was amazing.

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