Ross Hammond – Revival Trio (2012)

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Earlier this year, “Sacramento’s secret weapon” (quoting myself) made a wonderful out-jazz quintet record featuring saxophonist Vinny Golia. Adored landed a spot on our half-year list for best whack jazz record so far in 2012, largely because it was very instinctual, and also because of Hammond’s unique guitar intonations, which brings the sounds and articulations of early rock ‘n’ roll to advanced jazz.

But Hammond had already moved on to the next thing by the time that record was out, and that next thing was the Revival Trio. With Shawn Hale on bass and Vanessa Cruz on drums, the Revival Trio sought to bring a heavier African influence to improvised music. Since African music is so rhythmically centered, that makes Cruz a focal point for this project, a short-lived project, as Ms. Cruz has since departed for NYC. Cruz brought a multi-layered approach to her drumming that fills up a lot of sonic space without the need to be loud.

Before Cruz decamped and the trio thus ended its short but fruitful existence, Hammond was able to get their sound on tape, and Revival Trio is the souvenir of this side project.

The African-derived tempos on Hangar along with Hammond’s rock-toned guitar makes the music something akin to how The Police might sound had they attempted jazz, especially on Caribbean-inflected tracks such as “Going Pentecostal” or “LittlePants.” Other cuts, like “Strikebreaker,” take a particularly creative approach toward rhythm, and Hammond keeps the themes or riffs straightforward, anchoring them firmly on Hale’s steady bass, as Hammond fills out the harmonies mostly with his effectively spacious approach. That in turn leaves Cruz much room to do her thing and be heard doing it. One exception to this easy-paced approach is “Time To Wake Up,” a hard-swinging piece where they let it all hang out, leaving the strong impression that Cruz can cut it in New York’s highly competitive environment.

Revival Trio was released on September 28. Visit Ross Hammond’s website for more info.

*** Purchase Revival Trio here. ***

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