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Joel Ross, 'Prayer'

Joel Ross
Lauren Desberg
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When we speak in broad terms about "spiritual jazz" — a blurry term of art that has accrued all the practical considerations of a subgenre — it's often with scant acknowledgment of the faith systems that root a spiritual practice into place. With "Prayer," which opens his forthcoming album The Parable of the Poet, Joel Ross recenters that conversation in a spirit of quiet humility and common purpose, with a deceptively simple motif that opens up through repetition.

Ross, a vibraphonist and composer who emerged to all due fanfare several years ago, organized his new album as a suite in seven parts, following the arc of a Protestant worship service. (Its closing tracks are "Doxology (Hope)" and "Benediction.") The eight-piece ensemble he calls Parables is stocked with insightful peers like trumpeter Marquis Hill, trombonist Kalia Vandever, tenor saxophonist Maria Grand and alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins (whose own recent Blue Note release, The 7th Hand, is also a seven-part suite informed by matters of the spirit). Their incantatory treatment of "Prayer," at a processional tempo, sets an openhearted tone for the explorations to come.
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Nate Chinen