Overview: Named among the 100 Alternative Power Music List for 2020, multi-award winning jazz artist, editor-in-chief, journalist and founder of the award-winning Women in Jazz Media organisation, Fiona Ross never stops. Her latest, and seventh album “Thoughts, Conversations and To Do Lists” has its launch gig at the famed PizzaExpress Jazz Club (Soho) in London, UK on April 27th (click here for her gig tickets) and the full release the next day – April 28, 2023
Fiona Ross continues her life’s adventure, her suitcase of journeys covered with exploration stickers from across life’s spectrum. In fact, each of her albums and its tracks standalone, yet periodically she adds to the growing accomplished body of her musical works. Her voice is uniquely expressive, her lyrics fearless, with an uncanny ability to send arrows of emotional flight that softly penetrate. If you fully surrender, leaving bias on the doormat with your shoes, enter her lyrical exhibition, and get to know and appreciate this artist as the honest self-funded, self-produced powerhouse artist that is Fiona Ross. We must also give a big shout out to the musicians, liner note writers, cover artwork artists, the studio production crew and videographers that willingly travel with Fiona Ross on her continuing life’s travels. Please note: My focus is primarily on the powerful heart-on-sleeve “musical bard” lyrics in this new album. Fiona Ross’s music is so popular that others will express in far more detail about the individual musical instruments and song composition.
The album starts off with Copacabana beach party style Latin beats, transporting you to another world, introducing “When Will You Leave My Mind”. Perhaps like the ebbing and flowing of the beach tides, a clever reminding metaphor that constant mind-chatter can inhabit our shifting internal mental canvas. The lyrics speak of how some memories can often consume us with angst. That heavy burdensome weight that we must face head-on and bravely excommunicate. Painful, yes, necessary, yes, absolute. Listen to the lyrical chanting mantra of “leave… you spent so… long… you don’t belong in my mind“. The self-reflection of how could I have allowed this to happen? The music with its constant percussive back-and-forth analysis. The talkative guitar licks aptly bring you to the awareness of the all important attempt to seek resolution, or, was it that infuriating and consuming mental third party little trickster that led you up another cul-de-sac of life? Finally, the lyrics and the guitar come into alignment, banishing the cause of the pain, moving closer and closer to the mile-marker of hind-sight and lessons learnt about what we want and do not want!
Track two: “I Want to Know” is complex. The music swings back and forth from demanding drum-sticks beating out a metronome self-serving anthem to a whimsical flute on top of a sassy trumpet. The music totally underpins as Fiona sings of the most important fundamental set of life’s basic yet deepening questions of what we all want, love and to beloved, the continuing development of self-awareness and all its fascinating permutations, and to feel secure. She thumps her fist on the table as she continuously seeks and demands answers, all while navigating the complexities of the hum-drum of 21st-century city life in London. Can’t be easy when the mainstream narratives evade these questions rather with its focus keeping us on a treadmill leading to heightened levels of debilitating stress. Yes, we all want to know!
Track three: “The Small Things” – What a fascinating reminder for us all to appreciate the adage of appreciating the small things in life. Fiona lists multiple reminders for the listener, accompanied by a sexy saxophone and Fiona’s piano phrasing all as aptly musical reminders.
Track four: “When You Walked into the Room” – The music and lyrics sing of the hum-drum of the jungle of life, expressing how self-serving manipulative predators unfortunately abound.
Surface attractive charisma and good looks can swoon us. Yet these characters often turn out to really be impostors. Fiona shares how once the individual and collective conscious awareness sees the true underlying narcissism of people for who they truly are, they totally lose all their power and manipulative influence. I love how the jungle drums go from danger to celebration.
Track five: “A Single Source of Truth” – This track starts off with a marching style drum, a heavy beating heart overlaid with a punchy pulsating trumpet. Morphing into a cacophonic dissonance…OMG – I feel like this track defines those marauding, predatory hustling characters – You know, the ones that tell you “have I got a deal for YOU!” When you come to the realisation that it’s all been a rip-off, and then your discerning metre hits red. Once, twice, thrice – how do you trust, and I heard this all before!!! Fiona screams out with the question – “I Just want one place I can go to find the truth that I need. No more lies and misdirection give me facts and truth please.” For me, this track also raises the wider key question about what the hell happened to our societal common decency and authentic integrity? Instead, we’re more and more disposed to framing our first encounters with our bullshit metre turned towards full-on RED – firstly asking, does this person have an ulterior motive, can they be trusted?
Track six: “Push me Around In A Pushchair” – a lovely deep bass and guitar supports Fiona reminiscing of early memories, when someone else was accountable and responsible for her well-being. Yes, adult life can become so complicated and basically unfair to our inner child. Reverting to yesteryear and the sanctuary of innocence and the dissipating of adult stresses. What a glorious reminder to us all that we need to take timeout, recharge. Yes, mini-breaks are GOOD!
Track seven: “Looking at my to do list” – As an independent, multi-award winning jazz artist, editor-in-chief, journalist and founder of the award-winning Women in Jazz Media organisation. Let alone her leadership role in a topflight education company. Fiona Ross’s “To Do List” must be bigger and longer than the ocean liner the QE2! Fiona shares some of the multi challenges she faces in her life, and her self-doubts of being good enough for all of us. Well-thank you Fiona, you’re more than good enough.
Track eight: “The Best Version of Me” – is very much a follow on from the previous track and Fiona’s self-reflective questioning on still seeking to ask if she is giving the best version of herself. The sassy saxophone, rhythm guitar, snare drumming, and backing vocals all go to compliment Fiona, singing of her nagging doubts we might also have, especially when under a heavy load, and overwhelmed. In the last verse Fiona sings –“But I wonder if it’s me? Am I doing something wrong? Please someone tell me”. Yes, we all need genuine support and mentoring sometimes.
Track nine: “The Trumpet Man” – firstly, Dave Boa plays his trumpet on this track, with excitement and meaningful energy. Fiona gives us a glimpse into a one-on-one verbal conversation she’s had. Re-living its memory in song. An Intoxicating conversation between singer and trumpet – for me, some echoes of Dave Stewart & Candy Dulfer’s – Lily was here.
Track ten: “Look what you’ve become” – Fiona knocks it out of the ballpark. A simple yet glorious celebration song of a loving parent expressing her love for her sons. Suddenly, becoming a parent for the first time can be extremely daunting. The most important job in the world and nobody gives you a user manual! Despite all the growing pains and opposites of elated joy, the overriding constant is our love, pride, and unfailing commitment we offer as those little tiny bundles grow into an amazing people. .
Track eleven: “Always There For me” – I absolutely love this song. You can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends who can become a genuine family for you as well. A vital support structure, not one of those fair-weather friends we have all experienced. No…it’s about people you can trust and count on. Fiona shouts from the roof-tops, telling you her band is a close knit family who she can count on. Listen to her lyrics as she names them individual and they respond in kind with their instrument. Wonderful to have this level of trust and camaraderie among band members.
Track twelve: “Positive Things” – The title speaks to the struggle people can have in hind-sight reflection. The human condition in relationships can be so diametrically opposed, even though you had the best of intention. Fiona courageously hits us with a piano solo and gentle backing as she recounts her understanding and yearns for this person. Hoping that at some point in that persons life they experience “Positive Things”. I said earlier that Fiona has an uncanny ability to courageously send arrows of emotional flight that softly penetrate.
Track thirteen: “The Don’t Stop Just Breathe Ragtime” – This track wraps up the lyrical journey for this album with Fiona Ross. A very expressively clever up-beat piece of music coupled to a well lived and honed lyrical mantra. If there is one overriding thing I know about Fiona is her unwavering zest for life and all its lessons, as she constantly looks for a silver-lining lessons on her own life’s journey. Fully aware of the need to stay grounded while still allowing her creative well-spring to come forth so that you and I can appreciate her, yet Fiona would honestly tell all of us that without the strong loving bonds of all her band members and friends helping to manifest this album into tangible artwork, it just would not have happened. I am sure it will be as well received as Fiona’s previous 6 albums.
Track fourteen: “Thursday Thoughts” – (instrument) – Fascinating track, for me, I experience a blend of a two-tone Ryuichi Sakamoto, firstly the fast-paced slightly frenetic piano keys hammering a solo that morphs into that same piano playing a complimentary role to a lovely late-night melodic Jazz club electric guitar solo. Then the switch-back occurs once again with the transition expressed by drum cymbals. It’s like you just had 20 cups of coffee then stop for a quick rest treating yourself to a slice of key-lime pie, then “oh shoot is that the time must get on!”
Digital Album: Thoughts, Conversations and To Do Lists – written, arranged and produced by Fiona Ross – Release date: April 28, 2023 on bandcamp
Gibbi Bettini, guitar | Derek Daley, bass | Marley Drummond, drums | Loren Hignell, saxophone and flute | Dave Boa, trumpet | Ashaine White, backing vocals | Warren Woodcraft, percussion | Guest appearance on “Push me around in A Pushchair”: Nancy Richardson.
Recorded at Studio XYZ by Gibbi Bettini | Mixed at Highfield Studio by Elliot Richardson and Warren Woodcraft | Mastered by Nick Watson at Fluid Mastering
Front Cover photo by Monika S Jakubowska taken at Jazz Cafe Posk, London | Artwork by Chris Cunningham | Photos by Ron Milsom and Tatiana Gorilovsky | Liner notes by Jordannah Elizabeth |
This Album review header photo by Steven Tiller
Last modified: May 3, 2023