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Bob Ross: Arriving

Dan Bilawsky By

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Arriving, while low-key in many ways, is something of a signal flare, sending out notice of an on-the-rise leader located in Ohio. Newcomer guitarist Bob Ross graduated from Morehead State University with a Bachelor of Music in 2008 and completed his Master's degree in Jazz Studies at The University Of The Arts in 2010. A year later, he was living in Cincinatti and starting to make a name for himself there.

On Arriving, Ross works with(in) a format that many tend to associate with vibraphonist Gary Burton—the vibraphone-guitar-bass-drum quartet. This setting suits him well, as he tends to be more of a low flame soloist. His tone possesses warmth and his guitar blends quite well with Mark McCafferty's vibraphone. In fact, everybody in the band seems to mesh well; all parties tend to prefer understatement over in-your-face pyrotechnics, though they're willing to crank up the energy when the occasion calls for it.

Ross' songs and solos are inviting and accessible, but melody doesn't seem to be foremost on his mind. None of these songs will leave you with something to hum when the listening experience is over, yet many provide a warm embrace while filtering through the speakers. The band is occasionally found spinning its wheels, but that's not the norm here.

Ross and company deliver dreamy atmospheric ballads ("Unity Road"), bluesy fare that can be generic ("G Blues") or unique ("Mob Talk"), Brazilian-laced music ("Starlit Sky"), straightforward swingers ("Flying South") and backbeat-driven numbers. The quartet's strong suit surrounds its ability to create a pleasing sonic mesh. The only exception surrounds drummer Leon Robinson's solos, which tend to be a bit too forward and blunt. Elsewhere, each man, including Robinson, keys in on what the rest of the group is trying to achieve.

While the young guitarist cites players like Peter Bernstein and Jonathan Kreisberg as influences, his playing doesn't necessarily bring to mind either one. He's his own man and he's managed to refashion whatever he's taken from these guitarists to suit his own style of playing.

Track Listing: Arriving; Mob Talk; Siri; Starlit Sky; KT's Dream; Unity Road; Flying South; Summer Rain; G Blues; Night At The Greenwich.

Personnel: Bob Ross: guitar; Mark McCafferty: vibraphone; John Toedtman: bass; Leon Robinson: drums.

Title: Arriving | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Self Produced

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