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With his career in full swing — signed to Blue Note and critically adored — vibraphonist Joel Ross has just released his most gentle and understated album to date. The Parable of the Poet eschews the driving grooves typical of contemporary jazz in favor of simple, mantric refrains. Each of the seven originals are anchored to melodies or collective gestures that repeat persistently, even as the eight band members dip in and out of solos.In the decades after jazz’s incorporation into academia, most creative attention and innovation has focused on that which can be written down, predominantly harmony. Ross, much like his band member and label mate Immanuel Wilkins, grounds his work in a more traditional harmonic language while experimenting instead with the meta-parameters of how a group of improvising musicians might approach making music together. There are no head-body-head formats on The Parable of the Poet. Each piece explores a unique sonic texture, a unique large scale form and a unique strategy for the relationship between composition and improvisation. Ross constructed his compositions from largely intact remnants of improvisations recorded months earlier, and he allows his band to deconstruct them once more as themes unravel into loose, chaotic gestures. “Choices” opens with a breathy, spacious solo performance by trumpeter Marquis Hill that slips organically into a duet with Maria Grand on tenor sax. A series of lilting, unmeasured two-note figures allude to a solemn chord pattern that cycles restlessly as piano, drums and arco bass emerge to gradually flesh out the outline. They cut out again at the four-minute mark, making room for vibraphone to join the horns’ weary chant. The rhythm section reenters with meter at last, a dragging, determined gait that intensifies until the theme washes away beneath a cacophony of improvised melodies. In the midst of such bold compositional choices, the record is marked by warmth, reverence and an egoless maturity that is uncommon for musicians so young. — Asher Wolf