Out now on Blue Note Records is the extraordinary latest album from vibraphonist and composer Joel Ross. The follow-up to Ross’s KingMaker album, Who Are You? shows a maturity and a fine dedication to creativity.
The tracks on Who Are You? tell a story, melodically and atmospherically. Throughout the whole album, the vibraphone shines through, from the opening, ringing notes of Dream. As this first track builds, adding first drums and bass and piano then alto sax in a simple yet intricate melody woven by the whole ensemble until it deconstructs to a final note from vibes and alto together.
After this introduction to the whole ensemble, Calling features the solo bass which continues to start track three - Home. A longer and more frenetic track, this allows Ross to improvise across the whole vibraphone, alongside the whole band who both support and punctuate.
Take a listen to Home here:
There is intense improvisation throughout this delightful album from all the musicians from Ross’s Good Vibes band - Immanuel Wilkins (alto sax), Jeremy Corren (piano), Kanoa Mendenhall (bass) and Jeremy Dutton (drums), with special guest harpist Brandee Younger.
The maturity is evident, as are the links between these players, whose improvising interlaces, with all the instruments sitting back when that is called for. Ross says: “This record is a culmination of our maturing – as people, as a band, within the music – it’s about figuring out who we are. I don’t believe in coming into anything with expectations. As musicians, we’re just expressing ourselves.”
Ross has said that there’s a narrative throughout the album, but actually the joy of Who Are You? lies in the pure musical soundscape. There is a balance between the musicians and the parts they play, with the thread of the vibes running throughout.
If Ross’s debut album KingMaker was a marvel, then Who are You? is sublime, with layers of creativity, musicianship and improvisation we definitely need as we approach the end of 2020. The more you listen, the more you hear.