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Joel Ross Live at Dazzle

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Ross played with authority and grace, using a single-mallet style. His solos were soulful, swinging, and sometimes a bit abstract—a wide pallet to draw from.
Joel Ross Quartet
Dazzle
Denver, CO
August 16, 2022

Vibraphonist Joel Ross held top billing with his hot quartet at Dazzle Jazz on Friday night. Ross's debut was the acclaimed 2019 KingMaker, on Blue Note. This was followed by Who are You? (2020) and the pensive and soulful octet recording, Parable of the Poet (2022), both on Blue Note. Having been mentored and taught by vibraphonist Stefon Harris in 2017, Ross won the DownBeat Critics Poll Rising Star category for vibraphone and became one of the youngest artists to receive the respected Residency Commission from The Jazz Gallery.

This evening, Ross and his young bandmates (drums, bass, and piano) came on for their second set and launched into a long and unannounced piece that began with an angular, syncopated statement of the tune's theme played solo by Ross on vibes. After the band joined in, pianist Jeremy Corren played a prolonged solo. The band would be exploring and risking all evening.

About the first half of the band's hour-and-a-half performance was of original compositions. Most were hard-driving, bebop-themed pieces with long and aggressive solos. The drummer, Jeremy Dutton, accompanied and soloed with both nuance and power—in fact, a bit loud, which is common among younger jazz drummers. One of his solos bordered on self-indulgence, however skillfully it was performed. Ross had mallets in hand, looking at the drummer expectantly for a few minutes before the solo ended. Hot young drummers sometimes solo for too long.

Ross played with authority and grace, using a single-mallet style. His solos were soulful, swinging, and sometimes a bit abstract—a wide pallet to draw from. Each musician was given plenty of space to improvise, both during solos and in the group dynamic. They were all dancing on a musical tightrope, and apparently without fear of falling out of sync with the rest of the group.

The final half-hour of the performance featured unannounced pieces by John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk, played with great feeling and improvisational spark. After rousing applause, the band returned for a short encore, playing a more subdued and mellow number. We can only expect more virtuoso musicianship from Joel Ross and his bandmates, who provided abundant evidence that jazz is very much alive and exciting.

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