The Chicago-born, Brooklyn-based vibraphonist Joel Ross is a sophisticated jazz performer with a sound steeped in the post-bop tradition. A protege of Stefon Harris, Ross initially gained attention in 2016 as a sideman with Marquis Hill and his own Good Vibes ensemble. In 2019, he issued his debut Blue Note album Kingmaker.
Born in 1996, Ross grew up in Chicago’s South Side with parents who worked as police officers. A twin, he and his sibling started playing drums at age three, and by elementary school were regularly playing at church where their father also worked as the choir director. As a teenager, he switched to the vibraphone after joining the All City concert and jazz bands. More opportunities followed including playing with groups at the Jazz Institute of Chicago and eventually enrolling at the Chicago High School for the Arts. Via the school’s partnership with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, Ross engaged with a bevy of performers including Herbie Hancock, Gerald Clayton, and Stefon Harris; the latter urged him to audition for his Brubeck Institute Jazz Quintet at California’s University of the Pacific. Ross won the audition and spent two years working with Harris and developing his skills. The vibraphonist ultimately transferred to the New School where he formed his own Good Vibes ensemble and finished out his degree. In 2016, he took first place at the 2016 BIAMP PDX Jazz Festival “Jazz Forward” Competition. Based in Brooklyn, he has played with such luminaries as Makaya McCraven, Peter Evans, and Marquis Hill. In 2018, he joined Walter Smith III and Matthew Stevens for the album In Common. A year later, he issued his debut album as a leader, Kingmaker, on Blue Note. ~ Matt Collar