With a jazz reedman/English professor for a father and a singer-pianist for a mother, Tom Ross grew up in a musical family. His first professional experiences were with his dad on gigs around Colorado Springs, where jazz guitar great Johnny Smith taught the teenage Ross his secrets. Encouragement from his mother contributed, Ross says, to ³solid roots in American improvised music² which are robust today.
Ross, who has co-written songs with David Crosby as well as recording his critical hit album Horse of Stone through his sponsorship, was inspired by Indian composers, the Beatles, and Joni Mitchell to write globally influenced music. He earned both B.A. and Ph.D. in World Music from Wesleyan, where he also worked with John Cage. He spent 3 years in India on a Fulbright grant, studying and performing Indian classical vocal music to general acclaim. Another Fulbright to Niger and study in China gained Ross more insight, while he acquired considerable performance-knowledge in the U.S. of the traditions of Korea, Venezuela, Indonesia, Gambia, and Zimbabwe.
Tom Ross has appeared in concert and on television in America, India, Africa, China, and Europe. Band performances include work with Shanti, which also features master tabla-drummer Zakir Hussein. In the jazz realm, he has worked extensively with tenorman Bill Barron (brother of Kenny) and with drummer Ed Blackwell, who himself is perhaps best known for his work with Ornette Coleman.
Mickey Hart, Brian Eno, and Tim Reynolds have congratulated Ross on his work. Support from David Crosby, Graham Nash, and Phil Lesh (who lent his bass for Ross to record with) resulted in Horse of Stone (Mizazi Recordings), which Metroland reviewer J. Eric Smith predicted ³could change the face of music.²
Ross¹s latest project, while balancing a hectic performing, teaching, and composing career, is the album The Rain Takes Off Her Clothes (Mizazi Recordings), global jazz songs which retain the African-American funk of his roots along with melodic and rhythmic influences from Africa and India. The lyrics derive from major poets such as Emily Dickinson, W. S. Merwin, Pablo Neruda, and Billy Collins.