Joel Ross is part of the new wave of artists continuing a decades-long journey in creating evocative and forward-thinking music in the realm of jazz. The Chicago-born, New York City-based vibraphonist released his debut in 2019 titled Kingmaker with Blue Note Records and established himself as a musician and composer to watch. His music is personal and elaborate, following in the footsteps of pioneers like Lionel Hampton, Bobby Hutcherson, Gary Burton, and Milt Jackson.
On Ross’ newest release(and third for Blue Note) titled The Parable Of The Poet, Ross conducts the 8-pc Parable band through 7 musical pieces that make up an album-length suite. Parable is at times melancholy, at times triumphant, and always engaging.
The Parable Of The Poet comes off like a score to a dream. Light in moments, while heavy and intellectually engaging in others, Ross has written an album of depth and musical prodigiousness. The vibes are front and center, but opener piece “PRAYER” wouldn’t be as effective without Sean Mason’s subtle piano, or Marquis Hill’s trumpet. It’s an absolutely gorgeous piece that brings us into the fold of Ross’ vision. “GUILT” and “CHOICES” continue with subtle shifts with emphasis on the brass giving the latter an almost New Orleans feel.
A real shift comes in the dramatic “WAIL”, a tumultuous 10-minutes of alto sax and brass, bringing the power and heaviness of something like A Love Supreme. Ross has eloquence and quiet moments within this storm of a track, but this feels like the centerpiece of the record. “BENEDICTION” is the calm after the storm. A beautiful piano-led piece that closes the book on this parable.
There’s not a lagging second on this album. Joel Ross has written a work of grand musical statements, giving us both a piece for jazz ensemble while also veering into modern classical as well. The line between composition and improvisation is blurred to the point of not being there. The Parable Of The Poet is a singular work from one of the finest jazz musicians/composers working today.