Ralphe Armstrong


By the time Detroit bassist Ralphe Armstrong was just 20 years old, his touring and recording accomplishments were beyond what the average musician strives a lifetime to achieve. But then, whether he’s playing bass violin or electric bass guitar, Ralphe Armstrong is not your average musician.
Son of legendary visual artist/musician/composer/poet/storyteller Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong, Ralphe came from a musical family. His father, a violin virtuoso, was a member of the last known African American string band and was declared a National Treasure by the National Endowment for the Arts; his aunt was a guitar player; his brother played with Miles Davis. But it was his stylish and charismatic uncle, bassist Lee (L.C.) Crockett, who inspired his fascination with the bass when Ralphe was just 7 years old.
In 1974, 16-year-old Ralphe had just finished his musical studies in classical and jazz at Michigan’s Interlochen Arts Academy. He auditioned for and landed a spot with John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra, famously beating out a young Jaco Pastorius. “I got the job because I had a fretless bass,” remembers Ralphe. McLaughlin loved the sound, as did Jaco, who, as the story goes, went home and ripped the frets from his bass.
In the next few years, Ralphe went on to tour and record with an endless list of illustrious names including Frank Zappa and the Mother’s of Invention, Herbie Hancock, Jean-Luc Ponty, Santana and Beatles producer George Martin.
Ralphe’s unique and powerful style, as well as his technical mastery, has made him an innovator and orginator of fusion fretless bass.
These days, with his family grown, Ralphe is back on the international stage playing and recording with an ever impressively diverse cross section of musical genres such as Sting, Roger Daltrey and even Eminem’s group D-12. From jazz to pop and orchestral theater to hip hop, Ralphe has played it all—and always with his signature passion, power and precision.

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