Get a good sound, swing hard and play the bass like a bass.
So says Michael Ross about his one and only instrument: double bass. Ross has been living those words for some 37 years, and speaks them with conviction as his fourth album, Ginger, is released.
Ginger is a tight 41 minutes of top-quality, (mostly) acoustic jazz. Ross is joined (in quintet, quartet and trio settings) by a stalwart lineup of players that include some of the best in Florida and elsewhere: saxophonist/flutist Danny Jordan, pianist William Evans, guitarist LaRue Nickelson and drummer Walt Hubbard.
Ginger puts Ross’ bedrock musical qualities on vivid display: his far-reaching talents as a composer; an ability to incorporate his own playing, a sublime blend of muscle and fluidity, into an ensemble concept; and, when called for, to take center stage as a fleet and inventive soloist. Through it all, Ross never loses track of his instrument’s primal function — to provide the bass, the bottom end.
Ross mined his most lyrically melodic side for a large portion of the program: The ballads “Mahatma” and “Ginger” and the samba-esque “Life of Riley” are all unabashedly gorgeous tunes. “Cone of Uncertainly” showcases a stately classical vibe. A piano-trio treatment of “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)” is slow and probing. Ross and company get unruly on “Yak Attack,” a frenetic workout that calls to mind Jack Johnson-era Miles Davis (with Evans moving to Fender Rhodes).