The Most Anticipated Jazz Album Release of the Year: nublues by Joel Ross

Album Cover of Nublues Album by Joel Ross
Album Cover of Nublues Album by Joel Ross
Joel Ross

On February 8, 2024, a critically acclaimed Jazz artist, Joel Ross, released a new album entitled nublues. It is an album full of blues and ballads, told through the lens of more modern jazz.

This album has 10 tracks that consists of a mix of original compositions, as well as jazz standards. The album is one hour and eight minutes long with intense emotion and spirituality across all musicians. This album is released on Spotify, Apple Music, SoundCloud, iHeartRadio, and is free to listen to.

Each musician on this album, Joel Ross, Immanuel Wilkins, Jeremy Corren, Kanoa Mendenhall, Jeremy Dutton, and Gabrielle Garo are super well known, and beloved among the jazz community. These are some of the top musicians in the world, and they came together to create a masterful album.

Each has their own sets of skills that contribute to the depth of this album.

Joe Ross, the creator of the Nublues Jazz Album, playing the vibraphone at a concert. – Photo taken October 27, 2017 at Amsterdam (Wikimedia Commons)

The opening song “early” is the introductory piece, setting the tone for the album as a whole. “early” radiates many spiritual elements, the music strongly resembling a prayer or meditation of some sort. Joel Ross is a devout Christian, and has spiritual elements in most of his music.

The next tune, “equinox,” is a rendition of a John Coltrane classic song, which creates an intentional hard contrast in comparison to “early.” “equinox” is more spiritually somber than “early”, and blues is infused in its song-form, and the layered intention of the tune.

“mellowdee” is the album’s largest piece, an 11-minute meditation with four sections that showcase the band members’ familiarity with one another. It combines ballads, blues, and meditation as well as entertainment and relativity.

“chant,” a mesmerizing multi-layered duet featuring Ross on piano, which he says is one of his favorites. Joel talks about why he loves this tune: \“It’s the first time my partner and I are performing alone together on a recording, and I love the way that our ideas took shape.”

“what am i waiting for?” is a lamentation psalm invoking feelings of longing and desiring peace. The repetition emphasizes the psalm implication, as psalms sometimes have forms of repetition.

“bach (God the Father in Eternity)”, injects the sound of the church, and the rhythm of Black American music into a melodic fragment by J.S. Bach (One of the greatest music composers of all human history). Joel Ross plays a modern-day counterpoint to Immanuel Wilkins’ exposition of Bach’s theme.

The title track nublues unites the spirit of the blues with the unbridled nature of free jazz. Blues sensibility, not necessarily accompanied by conventional blues structure, is the defining sound of this tune.

“ya know?” continues the theme of nublues blues sensibility (the spirit of the blues) without implied blues form, (traditional blues chords), where the musicians play their interpretation of the blues together but with no common blues forms/chords.

“evidence” is a Thelonious Monk tune that has emphasis on displaced rhythms, which creates metrical shifts. Immanuel and Joel are spotlighted here with their world class improvisation. “I don’t really tell the band how to play anything,” Ross says. When asked what his mindset was before recording, he says “What I do tell them is to stay connected and make everything we do related to each other. And play the blues, however that comes off.”

“central park west” is a John Coltrane tune about a walk through Central Park in New York City. The chords imply an ascending cycle of minor thirds, creating an interesting sound. This band does their own rendition of this tune.
As the album continues, the personal background of each musician shines through, and their influences start to come out in their own form of expression.

Joel Ross: Joel Ross is the leader of the band on this album, and is a well renowned vibraphonist in the Jazz community, being known for having his own unique way of expression and sound in the new generation. Joel Ross was born in Chicago, Illinois, and now is based in Brooklyn, New York. Joel Ross currently has 173.5 thousand monthly listeners on spotify.

Immanuel Wilkins: Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Immanuel Wilkins is the alto saxophonist on this album. He is known as one of the most spiritual Jazz musicians of our time. He blends the styles of many older spiritual players that came before him, and executes all playing that he does with feeling and more emotion rather than technicality. Immanuel Wilkins currently has 222.5 thousand listeners.

Jeremy Corren: Jeremy Corren is a New York based pianist, who has made special appearances at Umbria Jazz Festival and North Sea Jazz Festival, two of the biggest modern day Jazz festivals. He has toured and played extensively with Joel Ross, and has a deep connection with the music he plays. Jermemy Corren does not have any albums by him or lead by him out at the moment.

Kanoa Mendenhall: Kanoa Mendenhall is the bassist in this album, and follows through with every other musician by putting deep emotion and spirituality in the music. She was born in Japan, but spent most of her youth in California. After graduating high school, she moved to New York, and really started her professional career in the Jazz realm. Kanoa Mendenhall does not have any of her own albums out at the moment.

Jeremy Dutton: “Jeremy Dutton weaves a netting of intention, comprising explicit and implied articulations, steady and emergent pulses” (Bluenote Records). Born in Houston, Texas, Dutton is one of the many great leading forces in rhythm in some of the most critically acclaimed Jazz albums produced, and has performed in venues all over the world, including Ronnie Scotts in London, The Montreal Jazz Festival, and Bluenote Tokyo. Jeremy Dutton currently has 468 monthly listeners.

Gabrielle Garo: Born in New York, Gabrielle Garo is a multi instrumentalist, playing flute and its other variations, as well as saxophone and all of its variations. Gabrielle has won many awards, such as the 2015 International Women in Jazz Youth in Action, the A.F.J Leonard Silver Award, and the Young Academic Achiever Award. She has also performed with many notable names such as Beyonce and Lizzo. Gabrielle Garo also currently does not have any albums of her own out.

nublues is a very unique album not just because of the various jazz standards and originals, but because of the way they are introduced to the listener. After most of the songs in the album, there is a perpetual fluidity that fades into a new idea and gives the listener a sense of mystery and the excitement of a new idea coming through. As a result of the changes between each song in the album, the mood of the songs changes giving a simple jazz standard a new birth of color and emotion. This main factor is what gives this album so much character and excitement for the listener because they wont know what to expect from each song.

About the Contributors
Matias Castro, Staff Writer
Matias Castro is a student journalist who is a high school senior and a saxophonist. He is one of the staff writers of the Campus News Team for the Grizzly Gazette. He is in the school Marching band, Symphonic band, and Advanced jazz band. He was a part of the William S. Hart district honor jazz band for the last two years and in the Hart District Symphonic Honor Band for two years. He also did the Colburn jazz workshop last year and is currently in a jazz combo and big band at colburn. He likes covering music topics, mostly jazz related. He is passionate about this topic because he is involved in this and music takes up most of the time in his life. Being a part of a student newspaper means a lot to him as he will be able to write about things he is passionate about and will be able to express his thoughts. Some hobbies of his are playing the alto saxophone and  jazz is one of his main interests.
Daniel Spears, Staff Writer
Daniel Spears is a high school senior, a staff writer for the Campus News Team, and an aspiring saxophone player in the Santa Clarita Valley. He is in all of the band programs at school, including marching band, symphonic band, and advanced jazz band. He has made numerous honor groups through the William S. Hart School district, including the Hart District honor band for 2 years, and the Hart District honor jazz band for 1 year. The people selected to be in these groups are among some of the best musicians in the district, and potentially in the entire valley or state. Writing and researching music and the arts are what stand out to him the most, and covering these topics is definitely a specialty of his. Music is a big part of his life, and is what takes up most of his time outside of school. Being a part of the student newspaper, he wishes to cover topics that may be lesser known to people on the outside reading in.
Lucas Castro, Staff Writer
Lucas Castro is a senior at Golden Valley high school and one of the Grizzly Gazette’s staff writers on the CEPAT Team. He is involved in the school marching, symphonic, and jazz bands on campus. There have been many accomplishments that he has made, they include being in the district honor band for 2 years and the district honor jazz band for a year. He is very passionate about playing music and it is a big part of his life, so it will reflect in his writing. The reason why he is passionate about music is because he likes to get involved with the community through music and enjoys learning new things that give him a challenge. What being a student journalist in the school newspaper means to him is that he will be able to write about what he wants and express his ideas through his writing. Some of his hobbies include playing video games and playing his instruments saxophone and clarinet. 
Shadd Jimenez, Staff Writer
Shadd Jimenez is a high school senior, a staff writer for the Community News team, and he is a saxophone player in the Golden Valley High School Advanced Jazz Band. He has made numerous honor groups like the Colburn Jazz Combo, the William S. Hart District Jazz All-Stars big band, Hart District Honor Band, Marching Band, Symphonic Band, and many other bands. He was section leader in multiple bands, and is passionate about covering music and the arts. He is passionate about it because he is heavily involved in these topics, and is glad to be a part of the newspaper to research and talk about it. He is also glad to provide information about topics that most people do not know about, but that he finds very interesting. He wants to go to either UCLA or USC for jazz, but is also considering California Institute of the Arts, Manhattan School of Music, and New England Conservatory of Music.