Jamison Ross gained the spotlight this past September after winning first place at the 2012 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. But I’ve known the drummer as a person, and a musician for six years. Ross contains a palpable passion for life, and it shows in his music. He believes that soulfulness is the key to everything that is good in this world. For more on this topic, I suggest you all stream this video. A drummer who thinks in melodies, Ross is a skilled composer who also knows how to take control and lead a band. He studied with drummer Leon Anderson Jr., and pianist Marcus Roberts at Florida State University before moving to New Orleans in 2011. Since leaving Florida for the Big Easy, Ross has been an in-demand musician. He’s performed with saxophonist Wessell “Warmdaddy” Anderson and embarked on tours with pianist Henry Butler and vocalist Carmen Lundy.
My introduction into b&w film photography coincided with my time at the FSU College of Music. Here are some shots of Jamison from 2009 and 2010.
The “Joy Ride” is what Jamison Ross uses to embody his 3-part mission. He explains that the message is that “Joy is captivating; Joy is genuine; Joy is love; Joy is soulful, but most importantly, JOY is an innate feeling. The feeling of joy engages and provokes people of all nations to believe in something greater than themselves. Joy is the most essential ingredient of music. With this ingredient, music expands from a sound to an experience.” The band is “a family of extremely conscious individuals with different perspectives and life experiences.” In spite of their differences, they love and respect the presence that they each bring to the music. Nothing gets in the way of their collective goal: “to take the world on a joyful ride.” The movement is “an army of creators that en ‘JOY’ what they do. They strive for authentic ways to portray and ultimately express the JOY that they feel for their artistry to the world that is without knowledge of their competence.”
“Today is the beginning,” Ross said smiling just before taking the stage on February 2nd at BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center in NYC. Each year, the “Monk in Motion” concert series honors first, second, and third place winners of the Monk Competition. Willard Jenkins and Tribeca PAC Executive Director, Linda Herring started the series in 2003, eventually partnering with the Monk Institute in 2005. Ross’ performance was preceded by a panel moderated by Jenkins featuring drummers Carl Allen and Allison Miller. Runner-up Justin Brown will offer his concert on March 2 @ 8:30pm.
Ross appeared at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola (NYC) the last week of October and in mid-January with all FSU alumni quintet led by pianist Chris Pattishall. Pattishall and Alphonso Horne both reside in NYC, but grew into their “jazz skin” playing with Ross in Tallahassee. Their friendships (like many other FSU jazz alumni) continue to grow, both on and off the bandstand. Before the gig on February 2nd, Horne had just come off a brief tour subbing for Marcus Printup in The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Cocoran Holt, bassist for saxophonist Kenny Garrett among many others, hooked up with Ross when they both began playing with vocalist Carmen Lundy. Nate Werth, while on the road with Snarky Puppy, met Ross last year in New Orleans at a jam session at The Maison on Frenchman Street. For the February 2nd hit, Ross hired saxophonist Troy Roberts as the sub for Joy Ride’s tenorman, David Stewart. Troy Roberts moved to NYC in May 2012 after earning his M.M, followed by a teaching gig, at University of Miami. Roberts is heavy talent and serious presence on the saxophone. He fronts his own band, Nu-Jive (album review coming soon) and last year, he had the privilege of representing his homeland of Australia on “International Jazz Day” playing John Coltrane’s “India.”
During intermission, Ross participated in a Q&A with Willard Jenkins, and was presented with the “Elizabeth Butson and Nancy Fox Outstanding Young Jazz Artist Award” by Linda Herring. Elizabeth Butson is on the Board of BMCC Fund and has supported the programs, especially jazz, since 1998. After Butson’s friend Nancy Fox passed away from cancer this past January, Butson created the award as a legacy in her best friend’s name.
Accelerated recognition of Jamison Ross’ talents, hard work, and overall attitude has spun out to make for a busy 2013. Throughout the remainder of February, he’ll be working in New Orleans with Irvin Mayfield and George French. Throughout the year he’ll b touring with Carmen Lundy, making appearances in South Africa , Europe, Japan, and NYC. In March, he’ll head to Italy to record with pianist Dominica Sanaa and in April, he’ll appear in NYC for one night special trio performance with pianist Ellis Marsalis and bassist Ben Williams. The full circle: Jamison Ross’ teacher at FSU, Leon Anderson Jr. was mentored by Ellis Marsalis. With the support of Concord Music Group, Ross will enter the studio early July to record his debut record as a leader. He will feature the Joy Ride band plus a few guest appearances. The record is slated for release at the beginning of 2014.
In this business that we call music, now more than ever, the artist must wear many hats. The music must connect with their audience on a sonic and a personal level. There is expected to be a steady feed of Jamison Ross, the person, after Jamison Ross, the drummer, has set his sticks down. And that’s what he gives us. The tech-savy 25-year-old is regularly wiring in on his website, Twitter, Facebook, Socialcam and Instagram. It has given him a necessary advantage in the global music market. At the recent APAP Jazz Connect Conference in NYC, there were panels entitled “How to Make Your Website Awesome!” and “Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr & Beyond (DIY).” This says something about what the jazz community is lacking, but Jamison Ross is holding it down, ahead of the game.