By Jeff Cebulski
Vibraphonist Joel Ross returns to Chicago, the epicenter of his musical upbringing, on Friday evening at the Pritzker, riding a wave of national interest from his first album as a leader on Blue Note, Kingmaker. Released earlier this year, the album’s themes reflect the deep feelings Ross has for his family and friends (see my review here), and that warmth should pervade the festival’s “welcome back” ambiance. Ross gained significant attention after he moved to New York City, collecting a formidable crew (built from his musical education experience in California and his NYC contacts) to form his quintet Good Vibes, including stellar young bassist Ben Tiberio, right-hand man Immanuel Wilkins on alto, Jeremy Corren on piano, and Jeremy Dutton on drums.
Ross and his band will have a very busy summer, playing in New York and Boston before jetting overseas to play in London and the Netherlands, followed by a trip to the Canary Islands. They will return to the United States to play at the Newport Jazz Festival in early August.
It’s not that Ross has been a prodigal jazz son to his Chicago roots; he has made appearances both at the festival and with Marquis Hill. But this is his first appearance as a leader on the main stage, and one should not be surprised if some guests show up to help Ross celebrate his fairly rapid rise to the national jazz spotlight. Playing before fellow New Yorker Ambrose Akinmusire, one expects Ross and his friends to be primed for a great performance.
Joel Ross and Good Vibes performs Friday, August 30, from 5:25 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.