Jamison Ross - Jamison Ross (2015)

Jamison Ross
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I wonder if Jamison Ross is familiar with the standards recordings that Marvin Gaye made when he first joined the Motown label in the early 1960s and then toward the end of his career and life in the 1980s? That question comes after listening to the cover tunes that make up the bulk of the work on the drummer’s debut recording, Jamison.

The album includes Ross’s takes on tunes that range from the blues of Muddy Waters on “Deep Down in Florida” delivered in a percussive New Orleans shuffle march style, showcasing his creative and energetic work on the skins, to the nu-soul/jazz fusion of the Great American Songbook tune “My One and Only Love.”

I wonder if Jamison Ross is familiar with the standards recordings that Marvin Gaye made when he first joined the Motown label in the early 1960s and then toward the end of his career and life in the 1980s? That question comes after listening to the cover tunes that make up the bulk of the work on the drummer’s debut recording, Jamison.

The album includes Ross’s takes on tunes that range from the blues of Muddy Waters on “Deep Down in Florida” delivered in a percussive New Orleans shuffle march style, showcasing his creative and energetic work on the skins, to the nu-soul/jazz fusion of the Great American Songbook tune “My One and Only Love.”

The latter tune would have fit nicely on a Gaye standards album such as The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye or the posthumously released Romantically Yours. The arrangements on that latter album are different than the way Ross approaches the standard repertoire on Jamison. Gaye fronts an orchestra on Romantically Yours while Ross performs with a small combo that performs as a quintet or a sextet. The vocal work is where the comparison between Gaye and Ross becomes most apparent. That is not to say that Ross sounds like or is purposefully seeking to channel Gaye -who ironically was also a drummer - but to say that their phasing, vocal range and the manner in which they insert gospel and soul inflections into their musical vocabularies are remarkably similar.

That similarity becomes strikingly apparent after listening to Ross’s soulful interpretation on “My One and Only Love,” – a song made famous on the classic 1963 Johnny Hartman, John Coltrane album - and then listening to Gaye’s take on “The Shadow of Your Smile,” heard on 1985s Romantically Yours.

However, Jamison is ultimately a jazz album, albeit one fusing that genre with blues and R&B and features Ross’ vocals on the covers and on originals such as “Emotions.” This jazzy ballad opens with upright bass, while Ross’s work on the percussion is reminiscent of Ahmad Jamal’s “Poinciana.” Lyrically, the vocalist sings an inspirational number about mastering his emotions and guiding them toward accomplishing his life’s dreams.

Ross’s deep blues take on “Sack Full of Dreams” is the highest point on a record filled with bright moments. This track is propelled by the simmering intensity of Corcoran Holt’s bass playing, augmented by a swinging piano, and Ross’s passionate and rangy vocals.

Jamison Ross is among a recent roster of Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz competition winners who have gone on to release highly regarded and in some cases Grammy nominated albums. Ross won the prize in 2012, and previous winners include Cecile McLorin Salvant in 2010 and Kris Bowers in the following year. I had the pleasure of reviewing the excellent debut albums of Salvant and Bowers, and, like them, the 2012 Monk winner brings the virtues of excellent technique, respect for the past and comfort with what is happening now. I expect that Jamison Ross will be an artist to watch for years to come. Solidly Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

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