Ross Hammond & Grant Calvin Weston – “Blues and Daily News”

Grade: B+

Key Tracks: “Blue Teeth” “Aquarium Salt”

“Blues and Daily News,” a collaborative album between jazz guitarist Ross Hammond and drummer Grant Calvin Weston, came about by Weston recording improvised drum parts and mailing them to other artists. Hammond’s contributions led to the track “Little Melon Head,” which led to a full album recorded in the same vein. The 10 tracks are all short blasts of improvised guitar and drums, spiraling through jazz, funk and country rhythms, amongst other influences.

Hammond’s guitar is virtuosic throughout, as he improvs his way through many different styles. We get glimpses of rock, in opener “Huff, Puff, and Blow It All Down” and “Blues and Daily News.” “Aquarium Salt” is led by an ambient, minimalistic rhythm in the background. And “Blue Teeth” is centered around very twangy, slide-heavy country rhythms. “Little Melon Head” even has a Latin flare to it. Hammond’s musical knowledge of genres, and his ability to bounce through and around them is impressive. “The Big Dipper” is also a noteworthy track, simply because Hammond hits an intensity higher than any other track. Hammond’s improvisation style is structured, as much as improv can be. He feeds off his own rhythms and ideas, maintaining a consistent sound in each track without falling into doing anything actually repetitive.

But one of the album’s most interesting qualities is how the two musicians vary in their improv styles – Weston’s drumming is much more unfiltered and manic. It is impressive and technical from start to finish, and it’s more unstructured style provides a stark contrast to Hammond’s guitar. It adds a chaotic balance. Weston also shines on “The Big Dipper,” his strongest track. His drumming complements the quicker-than-normal guitar of the track. Weston is prominent on “Aquarium Salt,” as Hammond takes a backseat and lets Weston work. Weston often adds rock drumming to his jazz, as much Ginger Baker as Buddy Rich.

As mentioned, the album blends influences together. Country, ambient, rock, jazz and others are explored. The final track, “Get Ready to Meet God,” is even centered around a snippet of an interview with Muhammad Ali. There are a number of interesting ideas on “Blues and Daily News,” and although some of them could have been extended more, it makes for a unique listen. Hammond and Weston play off each other nicely, and the combination of non-jazz styles in a jazz platform makes for some fun and independent songs.

This album is especially surprising, given how it stands as a stark contrast to Hammond’s “Humanity Suite,” which I reviewed in March. Stream and download “Blues and Daily News” here.

-By Andrew McNally

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