Free jazz and no Ross

The Ross Hammond Trio was smoking: sometimes atonal and ambient and other times funk-infused and rocking. The band intuited where to go next, dual saxophones blazing against the dirty rumble of the drums and the wandering, pizzicato trill and thump of the bass.

So, where was Ross Hammond?

As it turns out, he was out of town at a wedding and so missed his own absolutely superb Ross Hammond Trio gig at Luna’s Cafe. The “trio” is some mixture of Hammond on guitar, with Scott Anderson on saxophone, Tom Monson on drums, Gerry Pineda on bass and Tony Passarell on keyboards, saxophone or flute. On this night, all were present, save Hammond. Not only that: They were cookin’.

It certainly can’t hurt having someone like Monson holding down the drum stool. One of the area’s most talented (and in many ways least known) drummers, Monson plays the drums like a truly emotional instrument, but he does so with a certain amount of dirt. Rather than a clean, crisp sound, Monson’s sound is comprised of rolls and crashes, a style reminiscent of Jim White of Australian instrumental trio the Dirty Three. (Monson reports that he has recently been performing with both James Finch and Sherman Baker.)

Similarly talented, Passarell and Anderson are superb foils for each other’s sounds, particularly when their saxophone solos reside side by side, hence allowing the differences in their performance styles to be easily distinguishable. Passarell’s approach to saxophone rhythm, for example, is significantly faster than Anderson’s. In contrast, Anderson intersperses fast passages with short, slower and more lyrical motifs. The difference in styles makes the performance all the more interesting.

Passarell’s occasional switch to keyboards brought the ghost of Sun Ra into the room, giving the proceedings a spacey Arkestra vibe that lent extra space to the six-string electric-bass work of Pineda, particularly when that Arkestra vibe slid slowly into a kind of wah-ed out clavinet tune that sounded like an outtake from the soundtrack to Shaft. These are men who really know how to lay it down.

Too bad Hammond missed it.

It appears that spring is the time of the singer-songwriter showcase. Roberta Chevrette and Patrick Grizzell are hosting the Art Foundry Songwriters’ Showcase, held at 7 p.m. the third Wednesday of every month at 1021 R Street. Interested performers can send demos to Songwriters’ Showcase, c/o 5716 Fairbairn Drive, North Highlands, CA 95660.

Jackie Greene is no longer the host of the Songwriter’s Showcase at Marilyn’s (1177 K Street), but that doesn’t mean the shows have stopped. Instead, shepherded by local record label Dig Music, Marilyn’s now features rotating hosts, most recently Looking Star’s Hans Eberbach. Shows are Sunday nights at 8 p.m. Contact Dig Music at (916) 442-5394 for more information.

Even kids can get the blues, particularly when the Sacramento Blues Society ( brings its Blues in the Schools program to your neighborhood school. The new program brings area blues pros into the classroom to educate and jam with the kids. If all went well, the first event was held two days ago at Sacramento High School with none other than Mick Martin. For more information, contact Cynthia Jaynes at