Sacramento-based guitarist Ross Hammond (AMN interview here) recently released this live follow-up to last year’s Cathedrals (AMN review here). In contrast to that effort, this album features a six-piece band collaborating on two long tracks. Hammond’s bandmates on this go-around are Vinny Golia on reeds and percussion, Catherine Sikora on tenor saxophone, Clifford Childers on trombone, bass trumpet, euphonium and harmonica, Dax Compise on drums, and Kerry Kashiwagi on bass.
In 2013, Hammond was offered a chance to play an October show at the Crocker Art Museum, the premier art museum in Sacramento, California. Hammond’s concert was held in conjunction with the opening of artist Kara Walker’s exhibit. Hammond wrote music specifically the event that was inspired by Walker’s artwork. The result is Humanity Suite , a long-form composition, with ample room for improvisation amongst the band members. Unlike Cathedrals, which consists of shorter bursts of energy interspersed with more deliberately-paced pieces, on Humanity Suite the group takes its time with the music and develops themes over the course of nearly 50-minute set.
As might be expected, the album features interplay between Hammond and Golia, a symbiotic pairing of strings and wood if there ever was one. But they take their time, building at a slow pace through the first eight minutes of the first track before really breaking out. Golia also stays busy interacting with the other horns, in the occasional free-form blow out. But Hammond also contributes to the more introspective sections of the suite with picked electric guitar. On the other hand, about four minutes into the second track, he rips through one of his trademarked solos to the quiet accompaniment of the horns.
With Humanity Suite, Hammond shows that he is adept at writing long pieces that include space for each musician’s individuality to shine through. Another compelling effort.