Joel Ross – nublues (ENG review)

Blue Note Records – Street date February 9th 2024
Blues, Jazz
Joel Ross – nublues (ENG review)

For a few years now, the Blue Note label has gradually taken the place previously occupied by ECM, skillfully and thoughtfully attracting numerous talents. This time, it is vibraphonist Joel Ross who will be honored with the release of this album, “nublue.” The album brings together ballads, blues, and other musical forms, delightfully infused with a syrupy and elegant jazz flavor. Joel Ross stated, “I enjoyed the journey of delving into learning the blues and understanding its history, truly focusing on developing the sound and structure of this group. For me, it was all about the journey that came from all the information and discovering what it was going to be. It’s an ongoing process.” He further added, “I don’t really tell the group how to play anything. What I tell them is to stay connected and make sure that everything we do is connected to each other. And to play the blues, however it manifests.”
This way of traveling between the lines and different musical styles is the hallmark of contemporary jazz. The notable aspect in this case is the presence of the blues, which, through the writing, brings back the foundations of jazz, intertwining and occasionally clashing roots. Joel Ross uses his instrument to occasionally disrupt the listener’s ear, but the most fascinating aspect is the lightness he employs in his playing, his intentions, and the arrangements.
The genesis of “nublues” dates back to 2020, during the Covid pandemic when live performances were suspended. Ross returned to the New School to complete his degree, and one of his courses was taught by alto saxophonist Darius Jones, who encouraged students to explore the history of blues. This led Ross into a labyrinth of what the blues can be; it is not just a 12-bar form. He realized it was a feeling, “some sort of spirit or energy,” as Ross described it. “It’s emotion, it’s expression. But I also want to stay true to the rhythmic ideas we have already developed.”
This is an intelligent music, both in substance and form. Undoubtedly, the track “What I Am I Waiting for” is closest to the blues or jazz form, similar, sensitive, and vibrant intentions that compel us to reconsider the origins of these musical genres and reflect on where they come from. The title “nublue” also falls into this category, as a way to refocus and reflect, incorporating more jazz with blues intentions. Joel Ross plays with musical genres, clearly displaying humor and talent. Even if you are not particularly fond of the vibraphone, you will be captivated by the originality of this artist who sometimes drifts into the narrative form of free jazz. This album reveals many surprises, starting with the list of wonderful musicians who participated in this project: Joel Ross on vibraphone, Jeremy Corren on piano, Kanoa Mendenhall on bass, Jeremy Dutton on drums, and the excellent Immanuel Wilkins on alto saxophone. Sufficient reasons to place it at the top of our “Essential” pile, according to the opinions of the Bayou Blue Radio and Paris-Move publications.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, January 30th 2024


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Joel Ross – nublues
Proudly presented by the Blue Note/Capitol Team: Don Was, Rachel Jones, Cem Kurosman, Justin Seltzer, Melissa Cohen, Alex Anastasi, Andrew Craig, Joe Harley, Carla Berkowitz, Brandy Montoya, Su-Rmi Givens, and Eileen Whelehan.