An alumnus of Florida State University, Jamison Ross’ name should be well known to jazz buffs. You see, in 2012 he won the much-publicised, highly-coveted Thelonius Monk Jazz drummer award. Yet when he came to record this, his first album, he decided that the set wouldn’t just feature his drumming. The Jazz Master (Ross has just been awarded an MA in jazz studies by New Orleans University) took the decision to sing too. He says it was no snap decision, adding that he’d always been a singer as well as a drummer. Indeed, growing up in Jacksonville, he was a key member of the gospel choir in his grandfather’s church and he’s regularly cited singing drummer Grady Tate as one of his big influences. However, maybe, the recent runaway success of Gregory Porter played a part too because the soundscape on this debut isn’t a million miles away from the sonics that Porter and his team capture. That’s not to say that Jamison Ross sings like Gregory Porter. On the contrary, his voice is texturally very different…. lighter and a little more flexible but it possesses the same emotive and soulful qualities and the tunes on which he chooses to display his vocal talent have similar soul/jazz credentials to Porter’s music.
Hear that sonic similarity from the start. The opener, a cover of, Muddy Water’s ‘Deep Down In Florida’ has the same musical density as Porter’s work and the bumpy, funky cut is a great way to introduce yourself to the record buying public. Much more delicate is Ross’ treatment of Carmen Lundy’s ‘These Things You Are To Me’ (Ross was, for some years, the drummer in the diva’s road band) while ‘Sack Full Of Dreams’ is Ross’ homage to the aforementioned Grady Tate. Another of the vocal highlights is the two part version of the jazz standard ‘Bye Bye Blues’. This was actually the tune that won Ross his 2012 award and here the first part features the bluesy piano of Jonathan Batiste while the second part develops into a New Orleans funerary march enlivened by Rick Lollar’s wailing guitar.
The album’s instrumental highlight is a cover of Cedar Walton’s ‘Martha’s Prize’. Here the piano part comes courtesy of Chris Pattishall but the big attraction is the horn playing; Dayve Stewart’s tenor and Alphonso Horne’s trumpet. Being a drummer Ross offers a drum solo – a big part of an interlude intriguingly title ‘Jazz’ but it’s going to be the vocal cuts that provoke the interest in this intriguing debut.