Jamison Ross – All For One (Advance Review)
Jamison Ross – All For One
I stepped back in time after receiving the assignment to review All for One, the latest project by 2012 Thelonius Monk International Jazz competition winner Jamision Ross. I reviewed Jamison, the self-titled debut released by drummer and vocalist in 2015. It also turned out that Ross was a sideman in Carmen Lundy’s band and was a part of the group that worked on Lundy’s 2014 project Soul to Soul, another record that I had to good fortune to review.
Jamison was a very good record that had slipped out of my rotation as happens when duty calls for me to make room for new projects that need to be reviewed. Ross calls All for One the second chapter of what he started on his self-titled debut, and it is definitely a positive evolution. In many ways, the two records are similar: Ross’s work as a vocalist rather than the Monk Prize winning drummer takes center stage on both, and each record finds Ross moving between jazz, R&B, soul and blues. The big difference is that All for One features more of Ross originals than did Jamison.
The debut featured covers from the likes of Muddy Waters, Cedar Walton and Lundy. Still, there is some top-flight cover work on All for One, such as his transformation “Don’t Go to Strangers” and “Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy.” The former moves from bluesy torch ballad associated with the great Etta James into a swinging jazz ballad that begins with Ross singing backed by piano before it opens into a full jazz number with acoustic bass, piano and organ. Vocally, Ross shines on this track as he displays the range of his tenor and the kind phrasing that adds to the longing and vulnerability found in the song’s lyrics. The latter is a blues number was first done in 1968 by Mose Allison, and has been covered by the likes of Bonnie Raitt. Ross’s on-point vocals combine with his crackerjack band to turn this into a swinging protest song that is as timely as it was when it was first written in ’68.
Ross’s status as a husband and father inspire originals such as “Unspoken,” “Call Me” and “Away.” The ballad “Unspoken” finds Ross singing about the spiritual bond that exists between him and his wife that is so strong that words are not needed to express needs, wants or love. ”Call Me ,” is a funky R&B number that tells the story of the excitement of receiving a call from his wife. “Away” is an intimate, acoustic guitar country infused lullaby to his daughter where he expresses the pain of a father who has a job that takes him away from home too often.
Ross’s originals on All for One are good, but it’s hard not to be impressed with the effort this artist put into the covers, both in the overall performance and in the prescience to go off the beaten path and find long neglected tunes such as Fats Waller’s “Let’s Sing Again,” which Ross turns into a version that could fit in to any church’s playlist thanks to a church infused organ that kind of reminds me of Timmy Thomas’ “Why Can’t We Live Together.”
Putting an individual stamp on a cover song is a tough hill to climb, but that’s just one of the hills Ross surmounts on All for One. Combine those with his top notch, heartfelt original tunes, and you have a great early 2018 entry and a natural follow up to his impressive debut. Highly Recommended.
By Howard Dukes