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5

The Little and Big of Florian Ross

C. Michael Bailey By

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German pianist/composer Florian Ross has been making provocative music since his early Naxos Jazz recordings. He is a rolling stone, moving from one format to the next, always bringing something new and leaving something newer.

Florian Ross Elektrio
Wheels and Wires
Fuhrwerk- Musik
2013

The organ trio, specifically that of the organ-guitar-drums variety, has proven to be as durable an instrument format as it has a fertile ground from the whole of jazz, as well as rock. This format has included groups as disparate at Wild Bill Davis/Floyd Smith/Chris Columbus, Jimmy Smith/Eddie McFaddin/Donald Bailey, Big John Patton/Grant Green/Ben Dixon Quintet, Larry Young/John McLaughlin/Tony Williams and Keith Emerson/Greg Lake/Carl Palmer (throwing in Ray Manzarek/Robbie Krieger/John Densmore for good measure).

Well-documented German keyboardist Florian Ross has been known to front an organ trio from time to time: the Florian Ross Elektrio. In the above spectrum of organ trios, the Elektrio falls this side of Tony Williams; Emergency! (Polydor, 1969) band and that side of the Doors' rhythm section. Ross is even tempered as is guitarist Jesse Van Ruller, who only occasionally hits an over-driven segment and never so much that it annoys.

"Doors Closed" opens the recital with an intricate, descending figure that makes its way into a driving momentum sustained by drummer Martijn Vink channelling his best Stanton Moore. Ross' playing is super-scrubbed—no chitlin' circuit grease here. His B3 is taut and controlled even when he steps out in solo. However, none of the three fear turning up the heat as heard in the opener's coda. "Okay" shows a rhythmic-melodic side to Ruller, who establishes a polished, mid-tempo ballad for Ross to ruminate over.

The closest thing to a "traditional" organ trio piece is "Heather Deep." Ross adopts an apostolic tone to his B3, modulating through a considered prelude where he dances with Ruller's guitar before getting down to his sanctified business. The song recalls the Crusaders' "Way Back Home" being played over a simple church figure. Ruller plays above and beyond the lines. Ross shows himself a very capable small band leader and one not afraid to recast older formats in new and creative ways.

Florian Ross Big Company
Ties and Loose Ends
Fuhrwerk- Musik
2013

Florian Ross' big band recording Florian Ross Big Company—Ties and Loose Ends bonds directly with his Elektrio's Wheels and Wires through "Doors Closed," which opens both discs. The transition from organ trio to big band is a facile one, demonstrating Ross' ability to shift arrangement emphasis as needed. The composition opens up in the big band arrangement, revealing Ross' brand of modern urban writing and arrangement, characterized by busy reeds overlaid with brass, both in the ensemble playing and solo space.

Among Ross' rich compositions are arrangements of Maurice Ravel's prelude to "Tombeau de Couperin" and Victor Young's "My Foolish Heart." This is a beautifully odd pairing of genres that shows the common elements derived when placed in a big band setting. The Ravel piece reveals a teasing counterpoint developing in the winds and echoed on a closely captured piano. Dramatic build up is met with swirling piano figures that augment those of the reeds. By the time the band reaches gale force, it retreats to feature pianist Lucas Leidinger. "My Foolish Heart" is downright impressionistic as are Ross' original pieces. Florian Ross Big Company—Ties and Loose Ends is richly endowed with thoughtful arrangements bred with a fearless desire to expand the palette of the big band.

Wheels and Wires Tracks: Doors Closed; Okay; Heather Deep; Sarinah; Swing By; Scratch; Biscuit; West Babylon, NJ; Kat and Penny; Tremor.

Personnel: Florian Ross: Hammond B3; Jesse Van Ruller: guitar; Martijn Vink: drums.

Ties and Loose Ends Tracks: Doors Closed; Tombeau de Couperin: Prelude; Cycling; Une Larme; Running Walls; Prickly Pear; Medidation in D; Slow Motion; Elanor; Rosa Canina; My Foolish Heart.

Personnel: Frank Vaganee: saxophone; Christoph Mockel: saxophone; Stefan Schmid: saxophone; Wolfgang Fuhr: saxophone; Jan Schneider: trumpet; Volker Deglmann: trumpet; Menzel Mutzke: trumpet; Matthias Bergmann: trumpet; Klaus Heidenreich: trombone; Peter Schwatio: trombone; Felix Fromm: trombone; Ingo Lahme: trombone; Phillip Bramswig: guitar; Lucas Leidinger: piano; Dietmar Fuhr: bass; Fabian Arends: drums.

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