Florian Ross

Home and Some Other Place

Intuition Records, Germany

Further proof that the chromatic school of Jazz isn't yet dead, not that Andreas Altmann, Dave Douglas, or Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee would let it.

In fact, Ross's very lively quintet puts me in mind of a classic but highly underappreciated six-piece from the dear distant early 1990s featuring Douglas, Michael Jefry Stevens, Mark Feldman, and electric bassonist Mark Rabinowitz called the Mosaic Sextet.

Their one CD on the German label Konnex (1994) called Today, This Moment (which, if the music is immediate enough and if it is good enough, we can well be convinced is all that matters). In this case it was.

And Florian Ross's' five-piece, well-stocked with excellent musicians (Claus Stotter, brass; Matthias Erlewein, tenor; Ross, piano; Stephane Huchard, drums; Dietmar Fuhr, bass) and better ideas, has much the same drive and sense of purpose.

Calling out the essence of Bill Evans here ("Short Visit") or lifting the horns into overdrive with a tart chart and a snappy cantilevered melody there ("Dr. Gradus"), Herr Ross's fifteen tracks grow on me the same way Miles Smiles did.

Stotter's soft-edged open horn recalls Woody Shaw more than anyone else, though his solos whir through more impressionist areas ("Richard Called").

Tenorman Erlewein has one of those calmly exploring attitudes in comparison, however fast the tempo (say, for example "5 Freunde" with its offhand quote of Wayne Shorter's "Capricorn"). When Erlewein does a break, the band seems to diminuendo just a bit so they can hear him better. Weird but effective.

And then there's "Pretty Thing," a gentle piano riff flowering into a palimpsest for horns that I dare you to not smile when you hear.

Lots more follows. Throughout, Ross directs traffic and spars with Huchard's articulate tubs. The drummer's almost rocklike approach easily livens the already silly quacky melody to "Platypus." A certain swingy pop to Fuhr's bass line puts the tune over. This one's a funky platypus in a manner not too different from the favor Herbie Hancock did for the "Chameleon."

The chromatic school, now that ECM has largely moved into eclecticism, hasn't the influence it once did, but I suggest you return (as I have done, repeatedly) to "Pretty Thing Postlude" or just about any other piece here, and you will believe.

By Kenneth Egbert