On Entre Nous, it’s clear that jazz veteran Clay Ross has lofty ambitions. After stints with famed percussion ensemble Beat the Donkey and Matuto, his Brazilian-folk fusion band, Ross undoubtedly has expectations to meet and transcend. He’s full of good, clever, and sleekly structured intent, but the results are ultimately mixed.
“Street Sweep,” the disc’s rhyming, alliterative opener, is the first in a series of diverse – and equally alliterative—instrumentals. Here, Ross caters to jazz and folk fans alike, a feat that remains on the funk and frenzy of fellow, oddly-numbered instrumental s “Turkish Twang,” “Computer Crash,” and “Forget the Math.”
At certain moments, Ross’ vision falters slightly. His timid, yearning vocals, while promising, prove too soft and too sweet on “Sixth City Waltz,” a cacophonous Venice-meets-the-circus track. Its lyrics only stress that fact: “Your smile is too gentle/your eyes too blue.” “Shark Parade,” Entre Nous’ flute-infused seventh track, follows a similar path. Indeed, the raw and up-close guitar, flute, and jazzy funk are impressive. Ross, however, appears desperate to display his know-how in this five-plus minute solo.
Ross is redeemed by the oceanic psychedelia of “Battle Hymn,” the seduction of “Starwood,” and the ethereal, aptly-titled track, “Simple.” The latter, it seems, might be precisely what Clay Ross needs. He’s clearly talented – but he doesn’t need incessant tricks to convince us of that fact.
Entre Nous is available now via Ropeadope.