Revival Trio
(Prescott Recordings)


Originally from Lexington Kentucky, guitarist Ross Hammond has made a name for himself as Northern California based artist. Over the past few years, Ross has released a pair of critically acclaimed CD releases—Ambience, Antiquite And Other Love Songs in 2011 and Adored in 2012—and now in late 2012 he adds another trick of the tale with a new album from Revival Trio. Simply entitled Revival Trio, the instrumental album was recorded in August 2012 and captures Ross in full flight with his trio band mates, Vanessa Cruz (drums) and Shawn Hale (bass). The CD has a live in the studio feel and contains a number of jazzy, improvised sounding grooves that displays all the urgency and spontaneity Ross brings to the 21st century guitar world. Ross cites guitar influences like Bill Frisell and Sonny Sharock while, with his usual flair for soaring improvisation, you can also add in John Coltrane as another music signpost. Commenting from the liner notes of the modestly packaged CD, Ross adds, ‘I started the Revival Trio project in April 2012 from a desire to play some African-influenced improv music. The project quickly became a force, as there was a great combination of a steady and fierce rhythm with a heavy sense of “let it fly” improvisations. I simply loved this project.’ Fans of both Frisell’s brand of eclectic instrumental guitar recording style and Coltrane’s jazzy and often fiery sense of improvisation will dig where Ross is coming from on his Revival Trio CD. presents an interview with

mwe3: Ross, it’s been a pretty busy 3 years for you recording wise. First the Ambience, Antiquite And Other Love Songs and then the early 2012 Adored album and now the Revival Trio CD at the end of 2012. Did you set out to have such a busy period of recording and how would you compare the releases? I hope you continue this prolific streak!

ROSS HAMMOND: I try to keep as busy as I can, and these past few years have been great in terms of playing with some fantastic musicians and making records. I get a lot of inspiration for music from my wife and daughter, so there are always new songs coming. Usually they start as something I sing to my kid around the house...

As far as the records themselves, there are similar themes and song structures in both. Most of the time the song starts with a groove or a melody, and then the rest is filled in. The main difference in terms of aesthetics is the saxophone. In my quartet I'm sharing melodic duties with sax Leviathan Vinny Golia. In the Revival trio, it's just me. In a trio format I try to stay really focused during the improvisations. I don't want to sound like a wank fest.

The Revival Trio record came about after playing with this group on a weekly basis. We played at a place called the PreFlite Lounge in Sacramento every Friday. It was a great time because we could meet each week and work on ideas, etc. by the end if the summer we had a lot of music under our hats, and Shawn Hale and I wanted to record it before Vanessa Cruz moved to New York.

mwe3: I read that you set out to form a trio with the accent on recording some African-influenced music. Did you feel you achieved that with the Revival Trio album and how would you describe the chemistry on the recording between you and Vanessa Cruz (drums) and Shawn Hale (bass)?

ROSS HAMMOND: Yes, I think that was the approach. Definitely more so than making a verse-chorus-verse record, or a totally free record. I'm not trying to say that we made a 100% legit West African album. I'd never say that because we're three suburban cats from California. But a lot of the basis of the tunes were rhythmic ideas and folk melodies. Then we'd play that in an improvised jazz setting. It's been done before, but it was just the music I was hearing lately. Plus Shawn and Vanessa can really play that style. I'm always listening to music from Zimbabwe, Mali, Senegal, South Africa, etc. Boubacar Traore, Ali Farka Toure, Abdullah Ibrahim and Bombino have been on heavy rotation at our house lately.

mwe3: Where and when was the Revival Trio CD recorded and how did you approach the writing of the Revival Trio material? Are there other avenues of guitar recording and performance you want to explore next?

ROSS HAMMOND: We recorded our session live at the Hangar, which is a studio in a large Sacramento warehouse. Bryce Gonzales, who also recorded the Ambience, Antiquité and Other Love Songs record, engineered our session. He has great ears and understands the vibe I was going for. I told him we wanted to sound like we were playing live in a big room. Production-wise, this music shouldn't sound too polished. It needs some grit. We tracked the whole session in about 4 hours.

As for what's next I've been playing a lot of acoustic music. Maybe an acoustic project would be cool. I'm really into Jim McAulley, who is a great acoustic improviser in Los Angeles, these days. He marries folk music with a lot of extended technique and free improvising. I'd like to try some of that. Also, I have a new working trio in Sacramento with Shawn Hale and drumming scientist Dax Compise. We're gigging a kit and working on our approach now. I'll be gigging and recording with Vinny Golia and bassist Adam Lane in New York this fall as well.

mwe3: What guitars did you play on the Revival Trio CD and are there any new developments in the guitar world you’re currently interested in? How about other recordings by guitarists you’ve been listening to or watching of late?

ROSS HAMMOND: My main guitar these days is a Jerry Jones double cutaway, 2 pickup Neptune. I use that for almost every gig. It sounds great and it's comfortable to play. You can get so many different tones out of those Danelectro-type guitars, I don't know if I'm going to switch anytime soon. I did just find a late 60s Teisco at an antique show. It was sitting in a bucket and they wanted $25 for it. So I've nursed it back to health and have been using it too.

As for amps, I'm pretty loyal to my ZTs. I have a Lunchbox, which is great to travel and record with. I also just bought a ZT Club, which is an amazing sounding amp. That's what I used for the Revival trio record. It was pretty much guitar straight into the amp, although I used a cheapo Danelectro tremolo pedal ($20!) on some songs. I love that one.

For the acoustic songs I played my Fischer Archtop from the 1930s. It has a great sound and was recently fitted with a custom floating pickup by local Luthier/mad genius Keith Cary.

As for the other guitarists, that's a big can of worms. I've been listening to Jim McAulley, Vieux Farka Toure, Bombino, Buddy Miller, Sonny Sharrock, Jimmy Page and a few others recently. That and I'm a sucker for anything Jeff Parker, Nels Cline, Bill Frisell, Doc Watson, Hendrix and Neil Young do.

mwe3: Your guitar playing and music is quite eclectic and varied. What do you say to someone who asks you to describe your sound and your approach to 21st century guitar playing and the guitar in general?

ROSS HAMMOND: Wow, that's a heavy question. I don't really know. I try to play what I hear, I guess. I've always focused more on being a songwriter and improviser instead of a guy who knows a lot of tunes. Even now, I don't know a ton of jazz standards or blues tunes, etc. That's not really important to me right now. If I like a song, instead of trying to learn it I'd always try to write something that sounded like it. I did that as far back as high school. So I that sense, I'm not really a traditional jazz or straight ahead guitarist. Which is fine. My musical life really opened up when I decided I didn't want to be a jazz player. I'm way more connected to free jazz, folk songs, world music, new wave and blues than I am jazz standards. Although I do like to play Monk tunes. So that's part of my approach, I guess. I have some deep roots in Soul, blues and folk music, so I think that comes out too.

In terms of improvising, what you play is important but how you play it is equally important. I'm big on space and dynamics. Slaying the dragon (ie, going off) is great, but playing a lullaby can be just as powerful.

mwe3: The CD packaging for the Revival Trio album is very cool and somewhat humorous! What do you see for the future of the CD and recorded music in general? I heard you just visited NYC in October 2012, (what was that like?) and what future plans are on the table for you for the rest of 2012 and into 2013 too?

ROSS HAMMOND: Well, I think CDs will be around for a long time still. At least for musicians. We need something to sell at gigs. That will always be true. I think a physical medium like CDs is still very important. That being said, I think about half of my music sales are physical CDs and the other half are streams and you can't keep your head in the sand and avoid the digital aspect. Right now is a very interesting time. It's really easy to make an album. You can record, mix and upload a record to the Internet in one day. But, if its that easy to do that means everyone will do it so you have to work really hard to stand apart from the rest. This is where the old tradition of reviews, gigs and tours comes in. That is very important.

The Revival Trio CD was packaged with recycled grocery bags. We made those records at home, and the response has been tremendous. I really like the way they look and I think it fits the music. It's very creative, lo-fi and understated. Personally I don't really think musicians will need to spend a ton of money on replicating physical albums for much longer, but they'll need to get more creative because anyone can burn CDRs and put them in a slim case. So, that's where the creative part comes least to me.

As for NY, I have a few gigs and a couple of recording sessions there. I'll be playing in a trio with bassist Adam Lane and saxophonist Vinny Golia on a few dates. Oliver Lake will join us for one gig at the Downtown Music Gallery! So that trio is going to record. I'll also be recording with two of my favorite guitarists in separate sessions. Lucio Menegon is a great punk/blues/improv/noise guitarist in New York and we'll be recording a duo session. After that I'm going to record with looping guitar whiz Daryl Shawn. So it's going to be a fun season.

Finally, I just recorded 6 songs for a documentary called "All Pretty," which is a film about a historic cemetery and garden in Sacramento. That music was 6 and 12 string guitars, banjo, mbira and lap steel. The film will be released in early November.

Thanks to Ross Hammond @
photo credits (top to bottom) Pic 1: Jason Jong - Pic 2: Louise Mitchell - Pic 3: Keely Dorran - Pic 4: Louise Mitchell


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