Joel Ross, Who Are You? Review
by: Ferell Aubre
Blue Note recording artist Joel Ross is back with a new sound and project called Who Are You? The vibraphonist is joined by Good Vibes members and Jeremy Corren is on piano, Immanuel Wilkins is on alto saxophone, and Jeremy Dutton is on drums, and the album introduces a new member, Kanoa Mendenhall on bass. Guest artist Brandee Younger is on harp for five songs. The album is split into two narrative haves. Songs one through seven introduce the characters and settings, and songs eight through fifteen develop them. Produced by Walter Smith III and Ross, Who Are You? is Ross’s next evolution as a player, bandleader, and composer.
“Dream” opens with Ross playing a theme that is developed by the quintet. The feel is sparse while still being consistent, and Dutton’s drumming is the critical factor in that movement. Ross and Wilkins have a sound that blends beautifully. The melody is introductory in nature and opens the album with a mood and sound that is modern and indicative of the music that comes. The ensemble builds the track to a climax and then relaxes to a pleasing cadence.
“Waiting On a Solemn Reminiscence” is the evolution of “Dream.” The opening theme by Ross does have elements of “Dream.” The overall feel is again kept alive by Dutton. His drumming is filled with cross-rhythms and intricate colors. The melody also builds and is played by Ross and Wilkins, with Ross adding fills here and there. The theme is developed in various rhythmic and harmonic ways that are exciting. Breaking from the form of head, solo, solo, head, and the ending is a nice breath of fresh air.
Who Are You? is inspired by communication through storytelling as Ross advances the spirit of risk-taking while maintaining his vision for story structure. The album is an adventure in new feels, sounds, and forms that keep the jazz language at heart while moving it forward.