Ross Hammond + Grant Calvin Weston – Blues and Daily News (2014)

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Every time Sacramento guitarist Ross Hammond makes a new record, there’s a whole new concept involved. Blues and Daily News (due October 28, 2014 from Prescott Recordings), co-led by the only other performer on the record, drummer Grant Calvin Weston, isn’t all his concept, it’s Weston’s too. And the most remarkable thing isn’t even the kind of music played, but how it all came together.

Weston hails from the other side of the country, in Philadelphia. He’s play with some pretty forward-thinking musicians like Ornette Coleman, John Lurie and James Blood Ulmer, and Weston himself is always thinking out of the box, too. That way of thinking inspired him to make what he calls “Dining Room Session” recordings, whereby he improvises drumbeats and send these drum tracks out to other artists for them to flesh out with music.

One of those artists he sent a track to was Ross Hammond, with whom Grant Calvin Weston has played when the guitarist tours the East coast. Weston sent more tracks to Hammond, until an entire album was made this way. Blues and Daily News is the result.

They were never in the same room — much less the same state — in the making of this album, and things like bass lines, a trumpet, Youtube samples, and an iPad figured into the making of this record. The thing is, Blues never sounds manufactured, and in a sense, it isn’t: both Hammond and Weston are constantly improvising. The illusion is that they appear to be improvising together, when in reality, it’s Hammond improvising on guitar to Weston’s prerecorded improvisations on drums.

Perhaps as a result of starting with beats as a starting point, Hammond was able to steer the music into any stylistic direction that occurred to him at the time. The “blues” part crops up here and there when he plays slide (“Huff, Puff and Blow It Down”, “Blue Teeth,” “Get Ready to Meet God”), but he doesn’t usually play blues progressions. Funk, rock and free form jazz figure heavily into this music, often blended together and conforming to Weston’s muscular backbeats.

Hammond’s playing is raw, matching the rawness of Weston, but remains free from prosaic phrasing even as he’s flat out jamming; “Wing Ting” is one of several instances where that occurs. But he uses some offbeat tactics for some of the other tracks. For instance, he devises a melody for “Squack!” that’s at odds with the bass line Weston supplied, and then abstracts away from the melody itself. For “Aquarium Salt,” he keeps Weston’s drum soloing up front while he create textures in the background with long held notes off in the distance.

“Get Ready to Meet God” is another example of a Ross Hammond jam over one of Grant Calvin Weston’s funky, staggered beats but set to a speech by Muhammad Ali.

Blues and Daily News is built on the idea of making unpredictable music by creating situations that make unpredictable music not only more likely, but inevitable. Technology can enhance that process instead of inhibiting it, as long as creativity is involved.

Visit Ross Hammond’s website for more information.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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