Ross Hammond Quartet – “Cathedrals”


Ross Hammond - "Cathedrals"This is an album with personality.

Cathedrals, the new release by guitarist Ross Hammond, doesn’t break any new ground with its potent mix of jazz and rock, but it crosses old territory with a charisma that makes it sound brand spankin’ new.

It moves fast, but the quartet’s dense sound isn’t likely to slip past anyone.

“Hopped Up On Adrenaline” isn’t a vague reference, and the band is anything but subtle.  Up-tempo all the way, the heart of the song is Hammond’s electric guitar burn, but it’s the thinking man’s play of Golia’s flute, searing the melody into the song’s surface with a patient care that makes this a winning track.  And it’s the repeated pattern of contrast between Hammond’s guitar and Golia’s saxes (and flute), set against Liebig’s and Cline’s bass and drums fireworks show, that makes winners out of each of the album’s tracks.

Title-track “Cathedrals” has a dreamy presence, even though the quartet does little to turn down the heat.  Hammond’s driven melodicism contrasts with the casual sway of Golia’s saxophone cries, and both mesmerize in their respective ways.  The quartet shatters the spell with sparks of friction as they come together in the grand finale.

“Tricycle” has a jet stream percussion attack, with some call and reply action by Golia and Hammond that sounds great when they’re face to face, even better when their conversation grows disjointed.

“She Gets Her Wine From a Box” starts right in with a hook that digs deep, then spends the rest of the tune deconstructing the tune into something that contradicts the structure of its opening salvo.

“Run, Ibex, Run” with its blues-heavy stroll clashes with the dissonance of “This Goes With Your Leather,” which has Golia sounding the alarm, and then the quartet breaking into a mad dash for the doors.  And the two opposites are deftly brought together on “Telescoping,” itself a wind sprint of a song, but a race held with definitive lanes of competition and understood rules of engagement.

But of all the songs, the one most emblematic of this album’s magnetic personality is album opener “A Song For Wizards.”  The perpetually crisscrossing patterns of sax and guitar weave something beautiful from the raw materials of melody, and Cline’s captivating chatter on drums is engaging almost to the point of distraction were it not for Liebig’s song-like murmuring on bass, like a person humming the melody under his breath.  Four individual voices speaking on four different subjects that just so happen to be the same topic… like four separate tributaries flowing into one stream-of-consciousness.  Just so fascinating and so much fun to hear it all develop and come together.

The albums ends with the quiet tune “Goodnight Lola,” a short piece that stands out in stark contrast to the rest of the album.  But when an album brings it loud and brings it fast, this kind of peaceful sendoff is typically a charming way to go out.

Fun and ferocious, charming and smart.

Your album personnel:  Ross Hammond (guitar), Vinny Golia (saxophones, flute), Steuart Liebig (electric bass), and Alex Cline (drums & percussion).

Released on Prescott Recordings.

Jazz from the Sacramento, California scene.

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