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Brandon Ross: Costume

Brandon Ross has contributed greatly to the music of Henry Threadgill, Butch Morris, Cassandra Wilson and many others, but Costume (Intoxicate), his leader debut, offers a new and intimate view of his musicianship. Playing mainly acoustic guitar, Ross surrounds himself with acoustic-bass guitarist Stomu Takeishi and drummer J.T. Lewis, adding Graham Haynes’ cornet, Gregoire Maret’s harmonica, Shuni Tsou’s dizi (Chinese flute) and Sadiq Bey’s vocals along the way. “Another Approach” leads off, its calm 6/8 feel offset by Ross’ twangy intensity. Ross plays two absorbing duets with Takeishi, “No Wonder” and “One Solar Year,” and offers an astringent banjo take on Ornette Coleman’s “Race Face.” But Costume is more a panoply of textures than a virtuoso showcase. The three vocal numbers, “Peace Flows,” “I Am the Light” (by the Reverend Gary Davis) and the traditional “Twelve Gates to the City,” are accessible yet hauntingly unresolved. “Dry Lips” is an ocean of improvised space. And “Anthem for a New World,” the closing trio ballad, is sheer beauty.

Originally Published