On October 23, vibraphonist and composer Joel Ross will release his much-anticipated sophomore album Who Are You? on Blue Note Records. The album features Ross’ band Good Vibes with Immanuel Wilkins on alto saxophone, Jeremy Corren on piano, Kanoa Mendenhall on bass, and Jeremy Dutton on drums, plus special guest Brandee Younger on harp. You can hear the album’s lead single “More?” below.
“This record is a culmination of our maturing – as people, as a band, within the music – it’s about figuring out who we are,” Ross says of Who Are You? The vibraphonist nurtures his artistry in a continuum. He lets melodies inform improvisation, and collective spontaneity inspire written composition. “I don’t believe in coming into anything with expectations,” he says. “As musicians, we’re just expressing ourselves.”
Inspired by communication through storytelling – a method he absorbed, in part, working with such creative forces as Ambrose Akinmusire, Marquis Hill and Makaya McCraven – and with input from producer Walter Smith III, Ross assembled the album’s narrative in halves. Tracks 1-7 provide setting, as well as character introductions; tracks 8-15, plot twists. Each artist advances the spirit of risk-taking, while maintaining Ross’ vision for story structure.
Who Are You? is the follow-up to Ross’ heralded 2019 debut KingMaker, which made year-end lists in The New York Times (“Joel Ross is already widely known as contemporary jazz’s top prospect. Kingmaker shows that he has what it takes to build something vital”), NPR Music (“KingMaker announces Joel Ross as a crown prince of jazz… the sort of musician who seems to summon the full sweep of the post-bop tradition while tilting decisively toward the future”), and Rolling Stone (“KingMaker, the debut from young vibraphone marvel Joel Ross, featured thrilling back-and-forth improv… But just as striking was the leader’s remarkably assured compositional vision”). Pitchfork wrote that Ross “shines on his debut album, with an approach that feels sly and mysterious… KingMaker is a marvel.”
Who Are You? is out on October 23 and can be pre-ordered here.