The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz introduced Jamison Ross as an incredible young drummer in 2012 after he won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition.Three years later, Jamison, his joyous debut, presents him not only as a jazz musician who commands the drums, but also asa gifted composer, bandleader and more pointedly, a singer.
In fact, Ross sings on ten of the disc’s 12 sensational tracks. “When I won the Monk competition, basically no one there knew that I was a singer,” says 27-year-old Ross, before revealing that he began singing in his grandfather’s church while growing up inJacksonville, Fla. “I grew up around the spirit of music with knowledge of how to present it but with hardly any level of formal education,” he recalls. “My family didn’t think about it too hard it; it was a just a part of who we were.”
It was Ross’ mother, Renee Ross, who encouraged him to buttress the musical gifts with formal training;Ross studied drums in elementary and high school.He went on to develop a higher level of understanding atFlorida State University, where he received a B.A. in jazz studies. After relocating to New Orleans –where he currently lives –Ross earned a master’s degree in jazz studies.
After winning the 2012 Monk Competition, Ross toured and recorded with a variety of esteemed jazz artists including singer Cécile McLorin Salvant, pianists Jonathan Batiste, Dr. John and Jon Cleary; and bassist Christian McBride.Ross also continued working with singer and composer Carmen Lundy, who invited Ross to join her band prior to the competition.
On Jamison, Ross’ jazz erudition and his soulful singing mesh superbly. Complementing him on the disc is a group of excellent jazz musicians –guitarist Rick Lollar, bassist Corcoran Holt, saxophonist Dayve Stewart, pianist Chris Pattishall, organist Cory Irvin, and trumpeter Alphonso Horne III–all of whom Ross has cultivated a bracing rapport dating back to his college years. Also on deck is Batiste, who guests on four songs.
The disc begins with rapturous makeover of Muddy Waters’ 1977 classic, “Deep Down in Florida,” on which Ross brightens the rhythm and tempo with a roots informed groove. Batiste’s funky piano accompaniment, Lollar’s wailing guitar chords, and Holt’s fatback bass lines spur Ross’ intricate rhythms along while also buoying Ross’ yearning baritone vocals. “It’s no secret that I love the blues,” Ross says, “and this song demonstrates that.”
Jamison continues with a spellbinding interpretation of Cedar Walton’s “Martha’s Prize.” Here, Ross bolsters the swinging rhythm with a discreet bounce while Horne, Pattis hall and Stewart take turns improvising the singable melody.
“Emotions” is the first original to appear. Ross first presented this captivating instrumental in 2008 when he participated in the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead program. After hearing Washington, D.C.-based vocalist Christie Dashiell sing during one of his ensemble workshops, he wrote lyrics for it. The song became an instant hit among the other Jazz Ahead participants. “She sung the living daylights out of that song,” recalls Ross, who on this rendition handles the vocals while simultaneously supplying pneumatic danceable tom-tom rhythms atop an Ahmad Jamal meets Marvin Gaye arrangement.
Next,Ross pays homage to one of the greatest singing drummers –Grady Tate –on a winning makeover of Gary McFarland and Louis Savary’s 1968 soul-jazz classic, “Sack Full of Dreams.” Ross employs a relaxed swing while bringing a youthful radiance to the lyrics. The performance also featuresHolt thumping a delightful solo underneath Ross’ sparkling ride cymbal.
The old-school soul-jazz vibe continues with Ross’ frisky arrangement of Eddie Harris and Les McCann’s 1971 hit, “Set Us Free,” on which Lollar’s melodic and blues-laden guitar playing takes center stage alongside Stewart’s raspy tenor saxophone asides. After the brief piano-vocal interlude “Sweet Surrender,” Ross delves deeper into the American songbook and delivers a fetching rendition of Guy Wood and Robert Mellin’s “My One and Only Love.” Through Batiste’s elegant arrangement and Ross’ shadowy rhythms and soulful vocal interpretation, this new version bounces with a lithe R&B that will surely lure new listeners.
Ross pays tribute to Carmen Lundy with a glowing version of her 1994 composition, “These Things You Are to Me,” on which he evokes the song’s amorous sensibilities through his gentle rim-shot rhythms and sensual vocals. “Carmen gave me my first opportunity to tour as a jazz musician,” praisedRoss. “I wish more people knew just how amazing of an artist she is. Because of her, my motto is ‘All you need is for someone to give you one chance;’and that’s what she did for me.”
Ross shines the light solely on his vocal and drums prowess with the enchanting solo two-minute piece “Jazz (Interlude),” which segues effortlessly into Ross’ “Epiphany,” a soul-bop original with triumphant hard-bop informed horn charts, driving rhythms and Ross’ warm wordless vocals. “Epiphany represents my development as a drummer and singer. Exploring the possibilities of my voice coupled with my drumming has been fun and challenging. I wouldn’t trade this journey for the world,” said Ross.
Jamison concludes with a song that helped seal the winning deal for Ross at the 2012 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition –the 1930’s classic“Bye Bye Blues.”Broken into two parts, the song begins with a vocal-piano duet between Ross and Batiste. Then it unravels slowly as a country-blues dirge, featuring Lollar’s howling guitar playing and Ross’ testifying crooning.
Just as he proved at the Monk Competition that one doesn’t have to display pyro techniques to win over listeners, Jamison eschews from callow virtuosity in favor of sleek, artistic maturity. “I grew up playing in church so chops are not a secret to me,” Ross explains. “My approach to drumming is about accessing the soulful sophistication of the music while dealing with the art of support. I’ve learned to never sacrifice the musical moments; I like to approach them all as unselfish as I can. This way of thinking allows for my moment of authority to present itself.”
Still because many jazz fans know Ross primarily as a drummer, he was initially concerned that he had perhaps downplayed his drumming acumen too much. But after a soul-searching conversation with his wife, Adrienne, he realized that he had nothing to prove regarding his drumming and that he should just be himself. “With this record, there are no qualms about who I am as a musician or what my approach to the music is,” Ross enthuses. “On this record, I’m really ecstatic with what I’m presenting and who I’m presenting. It’s Jamison.”
Winner of the 2015 Thelonius Monk International Vocal Jazz Competition and 2013 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, Jazzmeia Horn has a name that speaks for itself capturing her very essence. Hailing from the great Dallas, Texas Jazzmeia has already earned a reputation in New York as a “Rising Star.” With the ambition to pursue a solo career, Jazzmeia graced the New York scene in 2009 and earned her degree at The New School for Jazz and contemporary Music . It wasn’t much later when she began to perform as a sideman with musicians Winard Harper, Junior Mance, Billy Harper, Lincoln Center Alumni Vincent Gardner, Delfeayo Marsalis, Mike LeDonne, Peter Bernstein, Johnny O’Neal, Vincent Herring, Kirk Lightsey, Frank Wess, and Ellis Marsalis.
Jazzmeia then began to appear in world famous jazz festivals and legendary jazz clubs such as Lenox Lounge, Bill’s Place, The Apollo, The Blue Note, Dizzy’s Jazz Club CocaCola, Minton’s, The Jazz Standard, Smalls Jazz Club, Zinc, Jazz Gallery, Birdland, and The New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Her accolades include Downbeat Student Music Award Recipient 2008, 2009, and Best Vocal Jazz Soloist Winner 2010, The 2013 Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Program at The Kennedy Center-Washington D.C., The Rising Star Award for the 2012 Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Jazz Competition, Finalist for Mid-Atlantic Jazz Vocal Competition 2014, and The 2015 -16th Annual Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium’s Young Lioness Award.
Currently, Jazzmeia is a teaching artist in The NJPAC Well’s FargoJazz for Teens Program and Jazz In The Schools Program in Newark, New Jersey. She appears in various clubs on the jazz scene nationally and internationally leading her dynamic group “The Artistry of Jazz Horn” which includes pianist,bassist, drummer, saxophonist, poet, dancer and herself-vocalist. Jazzmeia humbles her life and gift of music before God and says “I am thankful for the opportunity to play music professionally and have a deep desire to uplift the souls of others in need through my artistry in the spirit of music.”
Mwenso & the Shakes
Mwenso & the Shakes are a unique troupe of global artists who present music that merges the highest form of entertainment and artistry while commanding a formidable timeline of jazz and blues expression through African and Afro American music. Immigrating from Sierra Leone, London, South Africa, Greenwich Village, Madagascar, France, Jamaica, and Hawaii the Shakes all now call Harlem their home. Taking from the stylings of Fats Waller, Muddy Waters, James Brown and many other American musical legends – Michael Mwenso leads an electrifying show the New York Times calls “intense, prowling, and ebullient.”
Huntertones brings people together around the globe with fun, imaginative and fearless music. Their high energy, horn-driven sound fuses inspired improvisation and adventurous composition melding jazz, funk, rock, and soul. Adding depth and contrast to their live set, Huntertones shift from a dynamic six-piece ensemble to a trio featuring saxophone, sousaphone, and beat-boxing, keeping their listeners’ eyes and ears open at every turn.
Huntertones formed in Columbus, Ohio at The Ohio State University and hosted their first shows at a house on Hunter Avenue. They have since relocated to New York City, released two albums, and toured North and South America, Europe and Africa --experiences which have pushed the band to expand even further, stylistically. What started as a group of classmates finding a voice has developed into a highly collaborative group of musicians traveling, sharing, and growing together.
Individually, members of Huntertones have compiled a diverse resume of collaborations with top artists in pop, jazz, soul, and musical theater. This includes work with Jon Batiste and Stay Human, O.A.R., Snarky Puppy, Stevie Wonder, Andy Grammer, Ed Sheeran, Allen Stone, Gary Clark Jr., Phillip Phillips, We Banjo 3, Umphrey’s McGee, Vulfpeck, and more.