By Geraldine Wyckoff
Expectations—rarely trust-worthy inclinations—were that as the winner of the prestigious 2012 Thelonious Monk Institute’s Drums Competition, Jamison Ross would make his mark in jazz behind a drum set. Well, in many ways he has and he does. However, his vocals stole the show on his self-titled debut on Concord Jazz. The label, which he was signed to as one of the perks for the Monk award, gave him the go-ahead to sing. Smart move.
Ross’ much anticipated follow-up, All For One, definitely features his soulful vocal prowess on a disc of many flavors. Dig it that Ross, a Florida native and now New Orleans resident, goes directly to the source on Allen Toussaint’s “A Mellow Good Time,” which the late, great vocalist Lee Dorsey hit with back in 1966. Ross’ drums got that funk with some strong Hammond B-3 by Cory Irvin and tasty piano of Chris Pattishall.
He continues to show his appreciation for his now hometown by turning to another New Orleans master, keyboardist/vocalist/composer Wilson “Willie Tee” Turbinton for the title track, “All For One.” It also respectively makes reference to Harold Battiste’s innovative label AFO (All For One) Records.
Ross’ pen is also busy here often in conjunction with guitarist Rick Lollar, who contributes many complementary background vocals. Ross, whose roots in the church are often evident, brings a wonderfully uplifting spirit to their “Keep On.”
Other well-chosen covers include a passionately delivered “Don’t Go to Strangers,” a tune that, in these parts, is most often associated with the genius of singer Johnny Adams. Ross also wisely selected another brilliant song, “Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy,” by pianist Mose Allison.
Ross’ often romantic and always thoughtful originals, like “Safe in the Arms of Love,” again co-written with Lollar, warmly reside with his smart choices of non-original material.
Ross tellingly closes the album with a Kahn/McHugh classic, “Let’s Sing Again,” on which he’s accompanied, church-like, simply by the organ. All For One finds the award-winning drummer happily and lovingly back at the microphone. “A song will see you through, let’s sing again…”