The Parable Of The Poet

Joel Ross

The Parable Of The Poet

“This record really came from the ensemble itself,” New York composer and vibraphonist Joel Ross tells Apple Music. “Almost every take is a first take, since our years spent improvising together have shaped these compositions into something with more meaning than even we could know.” At 26, Ross is already on his third release (all of them with pioneering jazz label Blue Note), marking him as one of improvised music’s freshest and brightest stars. Having transmuted the reverb-laden sound of his vibraphone into soul- and hip-hop-referencing tracks on 2019’s KingMaker and 2020’s Who Are You?, Ross moves into newly collaborative territory on The Parable of the Poet with his eight-piece band, The Parables. Crafting the album’s seven tracks from preexisting improvisations Ross made with fellow New School alumnus and saxophonist Sergio Tabanico, The Parables then spent a handful of live shows, pre-COVID, honing their emotional resonances. The result is a seamless suite of music that reflects the arc of a church service. It’s deeply moving yet full of space to allow for the listener’s interpretation, from the meditative calm of opener “PRAYER” to the frenetic melodies of “WAIL” and the polyrhythmic optimism of “DOXOLOGY (Hope).” Here, Ross walks through each of the album’s tracks. “PRAYER” “‘PRAYER’ introduces the concept of a praise team, which is a front line of singers in the Black church who help to lead the worship. I see the horns in this track as being like a praise team choir, and I wanted them to serve the music in that same way. Everybody, at one point in the song, takes the responsibility of repeating the theme, while the other players communicate around it. The track focuses on the concept of serving the music through this melodic information.“ “GUILT” "This was an improvisation with Sergio where I felt emotions coming through naturally. The music is supposed to serve as a parable—a story that can be interpreted based on people’s differing perspectives—but to me, it feels like as the song gets faster, it becomes more anxious, the way you can get more anxious if you feel guilty. All of these compositions come from a personal place, but I want to keep them open to interpretation." “CHOICES” “‘CHOICES’ was originally called ‘Haunting’ and was taken from another improvisation with Sergio where, for 20 minutes, we were droning and looking for this motif, which is an uneven three-bar phrase on top of a five-bar phrase. I arranged it exactly as we discovered it in the improvisation, and we ultimately decided to move away from this idea of a haunting and towards the idea of choices, since you might be equally haunted by your choices.” “WAIL” “This started from an improvisation I did by myself on a melodica, where I was trying to evoke that feeling of a wail of despair that comes from the tough emotions that somebody can feel when guilt from their choices piles up. I wanted the band to capture that passion in the first section, and Immanuel Wilkins really came through on sax. The piece starts with his very passionate playing and then moves to a single-line motif that everyone plays as we naturally improvise towards the ending. The emotion of the music truly makes it come to life.” “THE IMPETUS (To Be and Do Better)” “We recorded this straight through from ‘WAIL.’ I like to give everybody some time to develop their own sound on the tracks, so on ‘GUILT’ I had Rick Rosato open up on bass, and on ‘CHOICES’ it was Marquis Hill on trumpet, while here it transfers to Kalia Vandever on trombone. It is the expression of passion and emotion in ‘WAIL’ that leads to a decision to do better and be better. Kalia’s part brings us back to make that decision.” “DOXOLOGY (Hope)” "A doxology is a song of praise that’s leading towards the close of our gathering. It is one of the first times in the set where I gave the band specific notes and parts. It is the praise-and-worship part of our church service—the song where we’re supposed to get up and dance in a focus on faith and following the Word. That's something to rejoice in.” "BENEDICTION” “At this point, we’re closing our gathering with a good word, a benediction. The pianist Sean Mason is the newest addition to this band, and he has the sound that I was looking for from the Black church that was an integral part of bringing this music to fruition. He gives us a sense of authenticity. The track is influenced by Coltrane since it moves in major thirds, which is also a nod to the Holy Trinity. It doesn’t resolve harmonically because it's symbolizing that, in Heaven, we're going to be praising and worshiping for eternity. We purposely fade out to evoke that we're still going.”

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