Ross Hammond and Jon Bafus – Masonic Lawn (2017)

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feature photo: Louise Mitchell

As both a guitarist and composer, Ross Hammond has had big ideas he’s put forth in quartet and sextet albums. Lately though, he’s been mining smaller, simpler notions that are often just as satisfying. His latest project Masonic Lawn is just a duet with drummer Jon Bafus but it’s his third set of recordings going one-on-one with a percussionist since 2014.

These small encounters are not the endless recycling of the same idea: Blues and Daily News with Grant Calvin Weston came about as a result of long-distance improv; Upward pitted Hammond’s acoustic guitar against the world-class tabla of Sameer Gupta. For Masonic Lawn, Hammond uses Resonator guitars to hold an extemporaneous musical dialogue with Bafus.

Whether it’s a six string, twelve string or lap steel, that chiming Resonator sound is by itself worth the listen because Hammond has an ample amount of folk, blues and bluegrass in his approach to guitar and those styles are a good fit for the tools he is using. Bafus takes it further by putting in grooves underneath.

“Like Being Kissed By God Herself” is a improvisational blues trance, while Bafus lays down a bass drum-snare syncopation for “On The Incline” that’s so wickedly funky, Hammond chooses to mostly stay clear and let the drums take center stage. Bafus takes that same beat and slows it down a tad for “Masonic Lawn” and Hammond plays his slide seemingly unpremeditated and trusting his instincts. “Subterranean Doom Coffee” also has the same kind of rhythm as “On The Incline” but this time Hammond invests most urgency into his lap steel and the tempo morphs into a galloping march.

Bafus lets Hammond start “Blues for Juan Verde” alone, patiently finding his own entry point to subtly slide a groove beneath him, and gradually builds up his momentum during “New Life In The Old Cherry Tree.” “Sloth and Stripe” is the only occasion with Bafus plays ‘free,’ fully engaging with Hammond’s own musings before letting the beat find him instead of the other way around.

Masonic Lawn will be available October 20, 2017 as a download and limited edition CD, each of the 50 CD’s with a different Polaroid photo taken inside Sacramento’s Masonic Lawn cemetery.


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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