Joel Ross’ Good Vibes
“I never had a doubt that I was going to do music,” says Joel Ross, the most thrilling new vibraphonist in America. “My whole life it was just about finding a way to do it.” In the past few years, keeping up with all of those ways has, for aficionados, turned into a virtuosic practice unto itself. The Chicago-born, Brooklyn-based player and composer has a way of being everywhere interesting at once: from deeply innovative albums (Makaya McCraven’s Universal Beings and Deciphering the Message, Walter Smith III & Matthew Stevens’ In Common) to reliably revolutionary combos (Marquis Hill’s Blacktet, Peter Evans’ Being & Becoming) to his own acclaimed Blue Note albums: KingMaker, Who Are You?, and The Parable of the Poet. Even with his own bands—which include quartets and a large ensemble dedicated to works of and in the style of Ornette Coleman and the Keith Jarrett’s American Quartet—Ross is a living blur of mallets and talent and ideas. Playing thoroughly in the broad, resonating tradition of Black music, Ross draws inspiration for his layered expression from vital, intersecting scenes of his native Chicago. He joins the Blue Note Records roster and adds his name to an illustrious jazz vibraphone legacy on the label that extends from Milt Jackson and Bobby Hutcherson to Stefon Harris and now Ross.
Alto saxophonist and composer Immanuel Wilkins grew up in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. After graduating high school, Wilkins moved to New York City in 2015 to attend The Juilliard School. In the city, he met trumpeter and composer Ambrose Akinmusire, who mentored Wilkins and helped him navigate the jazz scene. He also met a musician who would change his professional life, Jason Moran, the prominent pianist and composer who took the young saxophonist on tour. In what was one of Wilkins’ biggest gigs to date, he played alto in Moran’s In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall, 1959, a series of live performances honoring the great legacy of jazz pianist Thelonious Monk. Wilkins has since worked with a diverse range of artists including Solange Knowles, Gretchen Parlato, Wynton Marsalis, Gerald Clayton, Aaron Parks, and Joel Ross, making a striking appearance on the vibraphonist’s 2019 Blue Note debut KingMaker.