R E V I E W S

Year of the Dog – Bassist Michael Ross brings his powerful Quartet out for their third recorded airing on an impressive set of originals that hits solidly on a number of different counts. Apparently recorded live in an old movie theater, the immediacy of the performances is matched by their intensity. There’s also a nice amount of variety; the exotic” Revin” has a camel- in- the- desert lope behind it’s poignant melody line, while “Hercules” and “Back at the Cathouse” present bubbling, squalling, funk. “ Timshel” and “7.0” recall the amiable writing of Keith Jarrett’s “ Belonging” quartet. Guitarist Larue Nickelson, whose compositions share the program with the leader’s, mixes nimble acoustic work with slightly fuzz- tinged electric, and great ideas and execution whatever the axe. Walt Hubbard drives these tunes mercilessly on drums, pushing the soloists and ensemble with constantly shifting ideas, yet never getting in the way. Saxophonist David Pate contributes some intensely flowing playing, running down lines with the fervor of Roscoe Mitchell at his circular- breathing best. As for Ross, he’s a bedrock melodist in much the same manner as Charlie Haden, possessing a dark, sustaining tone ( check out his solo in the pharaoh Sanders- like vamp that begins “ Moe”) and his compositions, like Nickelson’s, are both thoughtful and swinging. The sum of all these parts is one very potent whole.  Larry Nai, Cadence

Year of the Dog -This Tampa, Florida based jazz-fusion quartet’s latest is perhaps its most revealing production to date. Michael Ross possesses one of the fattest acoustic bass sounds you’ll likely hear. And along with drummer Walt Hubbard, the foundation is firmly set for the lucid and somewhat aggressive guitar-sax attack. Add to that, Ross and guitarist LaRue Nickelson’s memorable comps, boasting balanced segments of scathing solos and lyrically rich choruses. Overall, the band mixes it up rather nicely via these hard-driving pieces, thus providing a hearty snapshot of an ensemble that warrants widespread attention.  Glenn Astarita (www.allaboutjazz.com)

Dog Eat Dog- Bassist Michael Ross and his quartet might signify the best kept secret in modern jazz, or to some extent, jazz-rock. Emanating from the Tampa Fla area, the band perpetuates a fresh and altogether radiant outlook, due to its often-forthright blend of swing, funk and psycho-rock induced licks. Ross commences the proceedings with a colossal sounding ostinato groove on the opener, “Wee Zee.” Therefore, he sets the stage for the band’s blustery attack, featuring electric guitarist LaRue Nickelson’s jazz-fusion style lines. No doubt, these folks mean business. Many of these works feature saxophonist David Pate’s hybrid, modern jazz/soul-drenched choruses. While the artists’ incorporate Pink Floydian dreamscapes, amid melodically laced themes, and turbo-mode soloing extravaganzas on pieces such as “Unknown Warrior.” However, the ensemble is primarily, a jazz outfit. Ross and drummer Walt Hubbard provide the booming yet generally pliant undercurrents, as the musicians also meld mid-tempo and peppery jazz motifs into their repertoire. Overall, Ross and associates convey a thoroughly happening vibe. Their passionate approach to the material speaks volumes. (Recommended) —Glenn Astarita (www.allmusic.com)

Dog Eat Dog opens up with the song “Wee Zee”; and the high energy sound is a bit akin to a power rock trio (with very overqualified musicians, for that genre) who went out and found themselves an inspired, hard-blowing sax man. Power jazz. Driving rhythms that jiggle the marrow in your bones; urgent, full-bodied rhythms, beefy, dark, in-your face tenor sax work, piercing soprano reed work, a foray into bass clarinet land that sounds dangerous, foreboding, some stratospheric electric guitar licks. Everything supremely focused on a don’t-look-back, forward momentum mode. This is the Florida-based quartet’s second CD, and they show themselves to be a extremely assured unit. Bassist/leader Michael Ross co-wrote all the songs with guitarist LaRue Nickelson, tunes that have a rock ’em flavor. The seismic opener, “Wee Zee”; soulful ballads with muscle–“Dog Eat Dog”, “Unknown Warrior’; “Spherical” with it’s soprano/guitar unison opening lightens the mood (sounds a little like a Branford Marsalis workout); the melancholy “I Thought I Knew”; and an in-the-groove “LaBooGaLoo”. And “Raymond”, a loose, loving tribute to the late great bassist Ray Brown (written and recorded before the great man’s passing). And save the best for last: “Battling Levinsky” Dave Pate, in front of a driving rhythm, sounds like he could go head-to-head with Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet here, and give no ground; then LaRue Nickelson comes in bouncing guitar riffs off the orbiting satellites…Marvelous; don’t listen to this while driving; the accelerator foot will involuntarily press toward the floor (experience speaking). An adventurous yet highly accessible powerhouse jazz outing by The Michael Ross Quartet.   Dan McClenaghan www.allaboutjazz.com

Jazzreview.com: “Wee Zee.” Nice start. Driving bass, rocking drum beat and an aggressive head. Then, a gymnastic and restless solo from bassist and leader Michael Ross. I like it. Here comes David Pate’s soprano, with Dave Liebman-like ferocity and agility, with the Ross dropping out mid-solo to allow a duo blowout from Pate and drummer Walt Hubbard. Finally, LaRue Nickelson’s overdriven and explorative solo reminds me of Kevin Eubanks’ fine work when he was in Dave Holland’s quartet with Steve Coleman and Marvin “Smitty” Smith. Nickelson sets a more mellow mood with some nice steel-string acoustic guitar work on the intro to “Nadja.” Ross states the first part of the melody, and Pate comes in with a Dewey Redman-ish complement before the guitar solo makes me think even more about Pat Metheny’s “80/81” recording. Tasty stuff. Other fine tracks on this introduction (for me) to this intriguing Florida-based quartet include “A Jew’s Blues,” an unusual fifteen-bar blues that has a Blue Note mood, “Spherical,” which allows Hubbard to show off his big ears in how he underscores the soloists, and the rocking closer, “Battling Levinsky,” which features an the ominous bass clarinet of Pate over an ostinato pattern set by the rhythm section. Reviewed by: J.Nannen www.jazzreview.com
“Doghouse, by the Florida-based Michael Ross Quartet serves as a judicious or perhaps glowing example of the many hard working and inventive jazz ensembles out there, who merit widespread exposure. With this new release, bassist Michael Ross leads a focused, highly charged outfit who infuse rock, funk and swing beats into their musical palette, while saxophonist Dave Pate and guitarist LaRue Nickelson make for a powerful front line attack.”Glenn Asarita, www.allaboutjazz.com .

“The highly resonant bass playing of Ross permeates the lively music of the Florida- based band on ‘Doghouse.’ With Nickelson establishing the fast-paced format on six and twelve-string guitar, and Pate blowing with authority, the music develops into a whirl of motion kicked into high gear by drummer Carabasi. Ross and Nickelson share the compositional duties on this session. The songs are cohesive vehicles for the band, allowing it to set in motion its pent-up energy. Ross’s bass is dominant when the group is in ensemble mood, and he also makes his presence known when the others take solo spurts. His own solos are equally enthusiastic endeavors. Not all of the tunes are fast breakers. Ross inserts an occasional ballad to slow the action, but the quartet is at its best when stretching its legs and running. Nickelson is a strong soloist who skirts all over his fretted neck, producing a rash of stimulation … Pate alternates on tenor and soprano. … He takes a hard-edged approach on tenor, spitting out rounds of gunfire. His soprano playing is less acute, altering the ambiance with more melodic overtones.” Frank Rubolino, Cadence Magazine.

“Two outstanding Tampa acts livened the bill. … The Michael Ross Quartet hinted at everything from Pat Metheny-style fusion to Middle Eastern harmonies on music from the group’s ‘Doghouse’ cd.”
Philip Booth, Downbeat.

“The evening began with a short but beautifully rendered set by the Michael Ross Quartet, demonstrating once again why it is the premier jazz group in the Tampa Bay area. The group, led by bassist Michael Ross, showed off new tunes as well as the soaring ‘Doghouse,’ from its debut cd. It wrapped up with a funky tune from its guitarist LaRue Nickelson, ‘Laboogaloo.’”
Tom Scherberger, St. Petersburg Times

“The group plays challenging post-bop, full of expansive improvisation, heady interplay and measured helpings of dissonance. … Pate is a firebrand on tenor and soprano saxophone, blasting out clusters of notes, but also tapping into a more introspective side when the music calls for it. Nickelson … mixes a deft feel for accompaniment with a fleet improvisational style. Carabasi anchors it all with supple swing. … While jazz bassists often get swallowed up by the broader sonic range of their bandmates’ instruments, Ross will not relegate himself to the background. His sound is woody and aggressive, at some points commandeering the melodic focal point of a song.”
Eric Snider, Weekly Planet Named Best Jazz Band, 2000 and 2001

“Bassist Ross and guitarist Larue Nickelson [are] jazz composers to be reckoned with. Nickelson moves adeptly from the challenging ‘Strangers from Before’ to the tender ‘Knowing.’ Ross establishes his leadership from the get-go with an aggressive solo to open the album’s title track. Ross’ “Josephine 9/21″ is a luxurious ballad while ‘Eggplant Prayer’ touches on Pat Metheny territory without veering into fusion. Drummer Tom Carabasi provides subtle shading and gentle propulsion throughout.”
Curtis Ross, The Tampa Tribune.

“The Michael Ross Quartet plays original jazz that’s mesmerizing. … On much of ‘Doghouse,’ the MRQ gets the groove so right that it creates a sort of safety net for saxophonist David Pate. … Pate’s ribbony outpourings are at times restrained and lovely, then all of a sudden furious, ecstatic..… ‘Doghouse’ is beautiful.”
Gina Vivinetto, St. Pete Times 1/21/01

“The MRQ builds on the lifelong collaboration of Ross and Pate, which has provided many bright moments over the years. Now, with Carabasi’s supple rhythmic work, the burgeoning talents of Nickelson, (Pate’s high school student not many years back), and their dedication to a book of original compositions, this is that too-rare commodity: a band with the distinctive sound, giving us
music of real interest and imagination.”
Bob Seymour, WUSF-FM, Tampa, Florida