While jazz history is lightly dusted with drummers who could sing—Buddy Rich, Grady Tate—none leap to mind whose vocal talents eclipsed their timekeeping acumen. Not until Jamison Ross. The 30-year-old Floridian, who now calls New Orleans home, earned his stripes behind singer Carmen Lundy and won the Monk Institute’s International Jazz Drums Competition in 2012. But when it came time to record his debut album, 2015’s Jamison, he insisted on both singing and playing, his kit taking a backseat to his voice.
Not surprisingly, Ross’ sophomore release again emphasizes his vocals, with deeply simpatico support provided by his touring bandmates: guitarist Rick Lollar, organist Cory Irvin, pianist Chris Pattishall and bassist Barry Stephenson. To open, Ross offers up a vibrant salute to his adopted hometown with a rollicking romp through Allen Toussaint’s “A Mellow Good Time,” originally made famous by Lee Dorsey. He closes with near-equal exuberance, alone with Irvin on Fats Waller’s “Let’s Sing Again.” Across all 13 tracks, including deft renderings of “Don’t Go to Strangers” (too rarely covered by male vocalists), “My Ship,” Mose Allison’s delectably sly “Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy” and a powerful reading of the Big Easy-born, love-over-conflict title track, he strongly evokes another celebrated New Orleanian, the great jazz-tinged R&B stylist Aaron Neville.
And Ross takes significant strides forward as a songwriter. Two valentines to his wife, Adrienne—the tender “Unspoken” and funky “Call Me”—are offset by the uplifting sociopolitical thrust of “Keep On” and the soaring, salvation-seeking vocalese of “Tears and Questions.”
Preview, buy or download songs from the album All for One by Jamison Ross on iTunes.
Read Jennifer Odell’s profile of Jamison Ross from the December 2015 issue of JazzTimes.