Sunday, January 25, 2015

Brandon Ross 13 Questions

Photo Butch Belair

Brandon Ross is a guitarist / composer / singer / songwriter, who has worked/recorded with Cassandra Wilson, Henry Threadgill, Jewel, Tony Williams, Arto Lindsay, The Lounge Lizards, Leroy Jenkins, Butch Morris, Bill Frisell, Me'Shell  N'degeocello, Moreno Veloso, Arrested Development, Craig Harris, Archie Shepp, Fred Hopkins, Joan Osborne, Muhal  Richard Abrams, Deidre Murray, Mino Cinelu, Don Byron, Bobby Previte, Timothy Hill, Myra Melford, Ron Miles, Oliver  Lake, Sekou Sundiata, Bill Laswell, Zeena Parkins, Michelle Branch, Wadada Leo Smith, and many others, crafting a  personal approach to (jazz) guitar, and improvisation, that has taken him all over the world.

Photo Junya Suzuki

He co-leads the avant power trio, Harriet Tubman, with bassist Melvin Gibbs, and drummer JT Lewis. "Tubman" is dedicated to musical revelation/investigation in a pan-African vernacular of Now. In Harriet Tubman, Ross explores electronics, and pan-tonality to sculpt a multidimensional, interactive, sonic language in a "classic" R&B/Rock configuration of guitar, bass, and drums. Harriet Tubman has released 3 cds, I Am A Man (1998) on Knitting Factory Records, and Prototype (live) (2000) on John Zorn's Avant Records label and Ascension (2011) in Sunnyside Records.

Photo  Butch Belair

"... Melvin Gibbs also appeared with Harriet Tubman, AN OUTSTANDING POWER TRIO featuring drummer J.T. Lewis and the remarkably creative but unsung guitar hero Brandon Ross, who combines the linear facility and originality of Joyous La ke-era Pat Martino with the sheer decibels and cathartic abandon of Sharrock and the liquid whammy-bar articulations of Allan Holdsworth. Ross unleashed fuzz-inflected, wah-fueled licks and testified with overdriven bluetones during this searing set, which concluded with a frantic jam that reached a Bad Brains level of intensity." - Bill Milkowski, Jazz Times June '07

 Photo Ralph Gibson

In his acoustic based quartet, Blazing Beauty, Ross plays banjo, electric, acoustic and soprano guitars; uses cornet, acoustic bass guitar, and drumset to extend his expressive field into "folk" oriented musics and compositional approaches that communicate his dedication to fresh musical experience. His first recording of some of this work, Costume, was released in 2005, on Intoxicate Records (Japan), to rave reviews, and several critic's "best of the year" lists.

Photo Michael Halsband

Ross also composes music for his acoustic string duo, For Living Lovers, with acoustic bass guitarist, Stomu Takeishi. During the Summer of '07 he has been doing a series of duets with bassist/vocalist Me'Shell N'degeocello @ Brooklyn's, ROSE Live Music, in Williamsburg.

Photo Michael Halsband

Ross has scored music for the surviving reel of a 1922 Chinese silent film called Lotus Blossom, commissioned by the New York Guitar Festival, 2006, and has arranged and performed interpretations of the music of Reverend Gary Davis, and Mississippi John Hurt for the NYGF (New York Guitar Festival) in 2004, and 2006. He is currently composing for his next release, having released his latest CD, Puppet on Intoxicate Records (2006), and recorded interpretations of the film music of Toru Takemitsu, with classical guitarist, Daisuke Suzuki, and bass guitarist Stomu Takeishi, which was released in Japan in September '06 on Intoxicate Records. (Oh, and he loves a glass of a fine vintage, listening to great muiIc, while engaged in expansive conversation... especially in Italy.) 

Harriet Tubman is Brandon Ross (guitar, vocals), Melvin Gibbs (bass), JT Lewis (drums)

What do you remember about your first guitar?

My first guitar was a GHI, acoustic guitar that I bought for $30 at Great Eastern Department store in East Brunswick, NJ, USA. It was a steel string, “spruce” top. I later sold it at Summer camp to one of my co-campers for $50.

For Living Lovers, with acoustic bass guitarist, Stomu Takeishi. Photo Ralph Gibson

What do you recall about your playing learning process?
It was HARD for me to STUDY guitar, practice, to develop that form of discipline. Painful actually. PLAYING was fun, practice was tough… Learning via practice was truly a major challenge for me. I think it actually caused me to cause myself to get physically ill. That was a long time ago, and it led me to a deeper purpose and understanding of what music was for ME, WHICH UP UNTIL THEN I hadn’t needed to know, and I was plagued by lots of self-doubt. Once I came to know why I was doing what I was doing, everything got better, and went sideways… in a good way!

Photo Ralph Gibson

Which was the first and the last record you bought with your own money?

The first record I bought with my own money was a 45 rpm single, of (I think) Stevie Wonder, singing “I Was Made To Love Her”.
The last record I bought is Dori Caymmi, “Poesia”

What do you expect from music?

I expect something inspirational and fresh from music.

Which work of your own are you most surprised by, and why? 

I am most surprised by my singing on Kip Hanrahan’s “A Thousand Nights and A Night”. I hadn’t been singing for quite a few years, and Kip asked me IF I sang at all… like my guitar playing, to which I replied, “Yeah, I can sing…” I literally created the vocal melodies line by line with the lyrics Kip wrote, line by line, AS we were recording!

What's the relevance of technique in music, in your opinion? 

The relevance of technique in music is simple: Technique is the RESULT of music.

Painting: Dwight

What quality do you admire most in an musician? What quality do you most empatize with in a musician?? 

Honesty. Musical honesty. 
The process of coming to the essence of a thing, and revealing something real and “beautiful”.

Photo Brandon Ross

What are the challenges and benefits of today's digital music scene?

The benefits are affordability and access. The challenges are discernment, and a sustainable supply of electricity! Values shift in the context of digital music making. The field is leveled and the values, the aesthetic and so-called “musical” values are still defining themselves, in digital terms. The technology has introduced unfamiliar options and directions and standards of performance, artistry and composition. We shall see…

Photo Butch Belair

Define the sound you're still looking for.

Myself. I’m still looking for the sound of my Self, purified from everything I’ve ever heard or at all enjoyed, or allowed to imprint upon me.

How would you define order?

I define order as a function of perception. 

What are your motivations for playing music?

My motivations for playing music are Soulic. I am always moving into the sound of the ineffable - into the space where the ordinary becomes extraordinary, where essence shapes time and space.

Photo Maria Winther
What's your best musical experience?

My best musical experience was in a dream I had where I was playing guitar in another realm, where sound was JOY.

Can you describe a sound experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a musician?

Hearing the Copenhagen Boys Choir sing Benjamin Britten’s, “A Ceremony of Carols”; Joni Mitchell sing “The Dawn Treader” on the radio as a 2nd grader.

Dream about your perfect instrument

 I dream about my perfect instrument often… Something by Steve Klein, or Ken Parker, that SINGS when you breathe on it!!

What is your relationship with other disciplines such as painting, literature, dance, theater ...??

I love painting and photography, and my most recent release, Revealing Essence on Sunnyside records, was executive produced by the painter Eric Fischl, and designed and photographed by Ralph Gibson. Visual art has always been a point of inspiration for me. It moves me. I love dance  and then theatre, but those forms are less independent, more interdependent in order to realize than these other forms.

Painting Henry Ossawa Tanner's The Banjo Lesson

Where are your roots? What are your secret influences??

 Well, my roots are in my family, my upbringing. My secret influences are still a secret! You can have those after I’m done with them…

Photo Ralph Gibson

What would you enjoy most in an music work??

What I enjoy most is a fresh, original insight into the familiar, such that it comes across as a revelation. I LOVE when I have that moment, that experience, on and off stage.

Photo Ralph Gibson

If you could, what would you say to yourself 30 years ago, about your musical career??

I would say what Ornette Coleman said to me 30 years ago: “Always be (musically), yourself.”

Photo Butch Belair

Which living or dead artist would you like to collaborate with?? 

Imogen Heap; Ornette Coleman

Photo Ralph Gibson

What is some valuable advice that someone has given to you in the past?? 

“You don’t have to do anything other than how you feel it in your heart.” “You can’t do, who you are. Who you are, does you.”

What’s the difference between a good instrument and a bad one?? 

The difference between a good instrument and a bad one is the builder/maker.

What instruments and tools do you use??

Acoustic guitars; banjo; electric guitars; soprano guitar; FX pedals; small percussion instruments.

Photo Ralph Gibson

What do you like the most about being a musician?? 

Traveling the world, doing what I love, and having my DAYS to do what I want.

Photo Junya Suzuki

What projects are you working on now and what does the future hold??

I’m writing a suite of 12 compositions to accompany 12 photographic portraits by Venezuelan artist Carolina Muñoz; Recording a new solo CD of vocal pieces, for guitar and voice, sung by me; mixing a new Harriet Tubman CD with special guest, Wadada Leo Smith; producing the Swedish music duo, East Of Someday; and recording music of “Black Sun” the collaborative band of Harriet Tubman & Cassandra Wilson.

Selected Discography

2014 Revealing Essence For Living Lovers

2012 Grégoire Maret Grégoire Maret 

2012 Love, Peace, and Soul Don Byron

2011 Ascension Harriet Tubman

2011 At Home in Anger Kip Hanrahan  

2011 At the Crossroads James Carter  

2011 Heart's Reflections Wadada Leo Smith  


2010 I Never Meta guitar  

2010 The Complete Recordings on Black Saint and Soul Note Flute Force Four Alto

2010 Silver Pony Cassandra Wilson 

2010 Conduction(r)/Induction Lawrence "Butch" Morris Guitar  

2009 Spiritual Dimensions Wadada Leo Smith  

2009 The Whole Tree Gone Myra Melford  

2007 A Tribute to Joni Mitchell  

 2007 Breakfast in Bed Joan Osborne

2007 For New Orleans: Benefit for the Musicians Village New Orleans Habitat

2007 The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams Meshell Ndegeocello

2006 A Hundred Jumping Devils Rob Reddy's Gift Horse

2006 All the Love I Could Find Low Skies

2006 Little Boy Don't Get Scared Jazzonia  

2006 Puppet Brandon Ross

2005 Dance of the Infidel Meshell Ndegeocello

2004 Costume Brandon Ross  

2003 Feeding Frenzy Darediablo  

2003 Glamoured Cassandra Wilson

2003 Laughing Barrel Ron Miles Quartet  
2002 Jazz Chillout [EMI]

2002 Down for You Is Up Metropolitan 

2001 Everybodys Mouth's a Book  
Henry Threadgill & Make A Move 

2001 State of the Union 2.001
2000 BPM Graham Haynes 

2000 Treasure Hunt for the Prototype Harriet Tubman
1999 Future Jazz Howard Mandel

1999 Midnight Blue [Blue Note]

1999 Project Logic DJ Logic
1998 Blue Box, Vol. 2: Finest Jazz

1998 I Am a Man Harriet Tubman

1998 Shadow Nights, Vol. 1 Kip Hanrahan
1998 The Jazz Singers 1919-1994

1998 Jazzonia Jazzonia 
1998 Visions of Jazz: A Musical Journey

1997 Blame It on Me Alana Davis 

1997 A Thousand Nights and a Night (Shadow Night) Kip Hanrahan
1997 Divine Divas: A World of Women's Voices   

1997 Violin for Anne Rice Leila Josefowicz

1996 25 Years Abiodun Oyewole

1996 Conduction 25: Akbank & Conduction 26: Akbank II
Lawrence "Butch" Morris

1996 Conduction 38/39/40: In Freud's Garden/Thread Waxing Space/Thread Waxing Space
Lawrence "Butch" Morris

1996 Jazz Central Station Global Jazz Poll Winners, Vol. 1

1996 Where's Your Cup Henry Threadgill & Make A Move  

1995 Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud Julian Schnabel

1995 Makin' a Move Henry Threadgill

1995 New Moon Daughter Cassandra Wilson

1995 New York Guitars

1995 Testament: A Conduction Collection Lawrence "Butch" Morris  

1995 Tops of Trees Carol Emanuel

1995 Transition Graham Haynes

1995 Universal Sounds of America

1994 Carry the Day Henry Threadgill

1993 Blue Light 'Til Dawn Cassandra Wilson  

1993 Manifestation: Axiom Collection II

1993 Plays the Music of Mickey Katz Don Byron

1993 Song out of My Trees Henry Threadgill  

1993 Too Much Sugar for a Dime Very Very Circus

1993 Unplugged Arrested Development  

1992 Leroy Jenkins Live!  Leroy Jenkins

1992 The Children of Ibeji Ivo Perelman

1991 4-Play Cold Sweat 

1991 Live at the Knitting Factory, Vols. 1-5

1991 Spirit of Nuff...Nuff Very Very Circus
 1990 Live at the Knitting Factory, Vol. 3

1990 Prophecy Fred Hopkins

1989 Cold Sweat Plays J.B. Cold Sweat 

1989 Live at the Knitting Company Vol One

1988 Compilation Oliver Lake

1988 Impala Oliver Lake 

1985 Current Trends in Racism in Modern America
Lawrence "Butch" Morris

1984 Urban Blues Leroy Jenkins
1983 Life Is Art

1982 Plug It Oliver Lake & Jump Up

1980 Visions of the Third Eye New Life

1979 Attica Blues Big Band Archie Shepp

1975 There's A Trumpet In My Soul Archie Shepp

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