Take Five with Florian Ross


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About Florian Ross:

Born in 1972, Florian studied piano and composition in Cologne, London and New York. Since 1998 he has released 18 albums featuring both small and large ensembles and written over 350 commissioned compositions and arrangements for large jazz ensembles. He received the prestigious Thad Jones Composition Competition Award in 2000 and the WDR Jazz Composition prize in 2006. His commissioned works include pieces for the German NDR and WDR big bands, the Netherlands Metropole Orchestra, the BBC Big Band, the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra, RTE Irish Radio Orchestra, and Sydney Mothership Jazz Orchestra and artists including David Liebman, John Scofield, George Duke and Gary Burton. In addition to writing and touring, Ross teaches piano and composition at the Hochschule fur Musik und Tanz in Cologne as well as the Jazz Institute Berlin.


Piano, Organ, Composition.

Teachers and/or influences?

Piano: John Taylor, Larry Goldings, Django Bates, Bobo Stenson, Keith Jarrett, Alan Pasqua, Bill Evans, Mulgrew Miller, Sean Waylandd, Denny Zeitlin, ... Composition: Kenny Wheeler, Jim McNeely, Thad Jones, Vince Mendoza, Claus Ogerman, Michael Abene, John Ireland, Max Reger, Toru Takemitsu, Renaissance Composers, Yellowjackets, ... Musicians (no specific order): Joni Mitchell, Walt Weiskopf, Hermeto Pascoal, Mel Torme, James Taylor, Mel Lewis, Allan Holdsworth, Clare Fischer ...

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

...no other idea what to do with my life really made sense.

Your sound and approach to music:

"If it sounds good, it is good" I am all about sound, clarity, intent and storytelling. I only like music that is more than the sum of its parts—I try to achieve this in my own playing and writing as well.

Your teaching approach:

I like to be a guide. Someone students can ask for help and guidance when they have questions about almost anything (musical). I expect students to think and ask questions. Someone who doesn't ask won't get answers.

Your dream band:

I like to place musicians outside their comfort zone. I feel like that way they can really improvise and excel. Musicians usually sound different when they play my music.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:

I played a serious Quintet gig in a big hall in Kolkata, India on a Casio Keyboard—that was fun.

Favorite venue: Zoglau3. Wonderful people, great room in the middle of nowhere, great atmosphere, good food... everything top notch!

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

Seasons & Places My very first album from 1998. It got me started.

The first Jazz album I bought was:

Chick Corea Electric Band (1986)

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

I try to be thoughtful about all parameters of music when I play or write. I think rhythm, melody, harmony, color, drama, story are equally important in music and I try to respect that. I like to be connected to the past, present and future simultaneously. By consciously avoiding trends and fashions I hope that my music can remain a valid piece of an ever-evolving, big puzzle.

Did you know...

...that I have four daughters, a wife, and two dogs.

Albums you are listening to now:

Jim Beard: Advocate (ESC Records); Sean Wayland: Barren Joey (Self Produced); Larry Goldings: Awareness (Warner); Henri Dutilleux: The shadows of Time (Erato); Kenny Wheeler & SNJO: Sweet Sister Suite (Spartacus Records) .

Desert Island picks:

Joni Mitchell: Travelogue (Nonesuch); Larry Goldings: Awareness (Warner); Brussels Jazz Orchestra: Play the music of Bert Joris (deWerf); Terry Gibbs Dream Band: Volume 1-3 (various); Max Reger: Mozart Variations (Naxos).

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

Lot's of hidden good stuff that shouldn't be hidden.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

Being supported like any other "serious" art. Not being part of the "market" in a purely neo-liberal sense.

What is in the near future?

In June/July I am planning another large ensemble experiment. This time it will be music for eight wind instruments (Flutes, Oboe, Basson, Clarinets, etc.) plus piano trio.

What's your greatest fear when you perform?

Being distracted by stuff that has nothing to do with the music.

What song would you like played at your funeral?


What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?

I have recurring earworms, but I never know where they come from. Often times it's music I am arranging. At the moment this would be "Black Harvest" by Marquis Hill.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

Biologist, dog breeder, wine salesman, chef, nature photographer or filmographer.

If I could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be and why?

Johann Sebastian Bach. I would ask him if he'd allow me to watch when he composes.

How can we make democracies better?

I don't know, but it's about time.

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