As the winner of the 25th annual Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 2012, drummer Jamison Ross impressed the judges with his fluid brush technique, adroit time-keeping skills, and nuanced approach to improvisation and group interplay. However, while he was earning accolades for his percussion talents, few of the judges knew he was also a skilled singer. Growing up singing in his grandfather's church, Ross was, in actuality, a vocalist before he was a drummer. On his debut solo album, 2015's Jamison, Ross showcases both his percussion and vocal abilities on a set of emotive gospel- and R&B-infused jazz compositions. Joining Ross here is an equally adept group of sidemen including saxophonist Dayve Stewart, trumpeter Alphonso Horne III, guitarist Rick Lollar, pianist Chris Pattishall, organ player Cory Irvin, and bassist Corcoran Holt. Also collaborating with Ross on several tracks is The Late Show with Stephen Colbert bandleader, pianist Jonathan Batiste. Vocally, Ross has a resonant, lithe tenor style, and cuts like the uplifting "Emotion" and the languid, romantic ballad "These Things You Are to Me" bring to mind similar works by Stevie Wonder and Al Jarreau. Elsewhere, it's Ross' dynamic jazz drumming that commands attention, especially on tracks like funky "Martha's Prize" and the soulful, modal number "Set Us Free." What's particularly fascinating is to hear how well Ross is able to combine the swinging, jazz end of his sound with the flowing, expansive R&B and gospel ends. This is particularly evident on "Epiphany," which finds Ross singing a wordless melody over a harmonically layered chordal progression that then kicks off into a propulsive post-bop piano improvisation. It's also pleasing to see the breadth of Ross' influences as he pays tribute to vocalist/drummer Grady Tate with a rendition of Tate's 1968 soul-jazz anthem "Sack Full of Dreams." Ultimately, on Jamison, whether he's in front of the mike, behind the drums, or both at the same time, Ross is in complete command of his sound.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar