Joel Ross : Who Are You? Review
Joel Ross is a vibraphonist and composer that hit the jazz scene with his Blue Note debut KingMaker. The album introduced his longstanding ensemble Good Vibes. Now, Ross is expanding his catalog and sound with his second release, Who Are You? Ross says this, “This record is a culmination of our maturing – as people, as a band, within the music – it’s about figuring out who we are.” Who Are You? features Good Vibes members Jeremy Corren on piano, Immanuel Wilkins on alto saxophone, and Jeremy Dutton on drums, and introduces Kanoa Mendenhall on bass. Guest artist Brandee Younger is featured on harp on five of the album’s fifteen tracks. The album is produced by Walter Smith III and Ross.
“More?” has an engaging modern jazz groove with Wilkins and Ross playing the melody together. Wilkins alto saxophone is agile and biting as he navigates the ever-shifting harmonic progression. Corren’s solo is rhythmically driving. Ross’ lines keep the harmony and melody as thematic material. The album is split into two narrative haves. Tracks one through seven introduce the characters and settings, with tracks eight through fifteen acting as storytelling and plot twist. The front half overall is pretty mellow, with “More?” being the most active.
“Harmony” is a beautiful ballad with Brandee Younger’s harp coloring the melody that is loosely played by Ross and Wilkins. Dutton’s rolling drum colors are interactive and fill the space as Mendenhall’s warm bass provides support. The ensemble colors set the mood, and Ross does achieve a mood that is introspective and somber.
Who Are You? is a fresh new sound for Ross. The storied theme of the album encourages listening to the project as a whole to experience the overall shape and mood of the story. There are plenty of harmonic and improvised twists that will keep the music flowing through the journey. Ross has a vision that will only get more focused and succinct as he grows as a player and composer.
Who Are You?
October 23, 2020
Blue Note Records