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Joel Ross: KingMaker (Blue Note)

A review of the vibraphonist's debut album

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KingMaker by Joel Ross
The cover of KingMaker by Joel Ross

The balance of handsome melody and harmony with fractured rhythm on KingMaker augurs exciting things from 23-year-old vibraphonist Joel Ross. Actually, it is exciting in itself. The album is Ross’ debut, after previous high-profile appearances with drummer Makaya McCraven and pianist James Francies. Like those two young pioneers, he’s got a terrific concept in the offing.

Regard, for example, the title track. It exploits the vibes’ inherently gauzy, dreamy character, with Ross’ Good Vibes band (alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, pianist Jeremy Corren, bassist Benjamin Tiberio, drummer Jeremy Dutton) intensifying that core trait, strengthening it into a gorgeous full-on waltz, then collapsing it into shambolic free-funk that slowly reincorporates the waltz form. It’s a remarkable, and remarkably organic, six-minute journey.

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Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.