Jamison Ross, a Florida native and the 2012 winner of the Thelonious Monk Institute drum competition, moved to New Orleans in 2011 to earn a Masters degree at the University of New Orleans. He’s been burnin’ up the scene here, as he has elsewhere, working with nationally prominent vocalist Carmen Lundy and our own pianist Jonathan Batiste. Batiste returns the favor as a guest artist on Ross’ debut album as leader, the brilliant, simply named Jamison.
The two rising talents come together on the disc’s opening cut, a super soulful rendition of bluesman Muddy Water’s “Deep Down in Florida.” It reveals Ross’ other great gift as a superb and inventive vocalist. Ross boasts the ability to take familiar standards like “My One and Only Love” and perform them in unfamiliar fashions. A knockout demonstration of this are his two his renditions of “Bye Bye Blues.”
The first is a vocal/piano duo with Batiste on which the pure clarity of Ross’ voice immediately grabs one’s attention. Part II then kicks in with the full band, including some fine guitar from Rick Lollar and the addition of Cory Irvin’s Hammond B-3 organ. There’s some church goin’ on here.
The album also features many of Ross’ original compositions among the mix of well-chosen selections by other artists. Ross offers some wonderful vocalese on his self-penned “Epiphany,” and mingles his singing right into the horn section. The flying fingers of pianist Chris Pattishall heighten the experience.
Ross hits on so many musical fronts. He’s one of those special drummers who knows how to tastefully add a ton of color and diversity to a quiet tune, as heard on saxophonist Eddie Harris’ “Set Us Free.” As a vocalist, Ross doesn’t simply sing a song, he feels its depth and musical possibilities and shares the joy of discovery.