Ralphe Armstrong (Jean Luc-Ponty, Mahavishnu Orchestra)

By Thomas Semioli 


Detroit keeps producing more great musicians than any other place on Earth, and that’s a true story… Ralphe Armstrong


A student of James Jamerson and Ron Carter, and classically trained at Michigan’s Interlochen Arts Academy, Ralphe Armstrong succeeded Rick Laird in the Mahavishnu Orchestra in 1974 at the age of 16 – a gig that Jaco Pastorious had also auditioned for.


An upright player, solo recording artist, and among the early proponents of the fretless, Ralphe went on to work with Herbie Hancock, Jean Luc-Ponty, Santana, Aretha Franklin, Lenny White, Earl Klugh, Narada Michael Walden, Eddie Harris and as a studio cat on sessions produced by George Martin, among others. Armstrong’s weapons of choice in this era was the Gibson Ripper, G-3, RD Artist, and Victory.


After a brief break from the biz to raise a family, Ralphe was back on the bandstand and recording studio with Sting, Roger Daltrey, and Eminem’s ensemble D-12. In addition to gigs and sessions, Ralphe is currently an educator at the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio.


Ralphe Armstrong Sound & Vision…


Mahvishnu Orchestra “Smile of the Beyond” https://youtu.be/IjM-UQ0zVUU


Jean-Luc “Egocentric Molecules” https://youtu.be/bFQyqJNwFI8


Lenny White https://youtu.be/CxPe0ucLjro  


Aretha “Wonderful” https://youtu.be/S9X3IAYzh48


KYBP Adjunct Professor Tony Senatore’s rendition of “Mirage” replete with a comedic preamble, as played on Ralphe’s fretless bass: https://youtu.be/uFR32Zx6MDQ