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A front man for musical giants — who “got lucky” and makes a living playing guitar

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Growing up, Joel Ross didn’t follow a typical musical path. He liked to play in the community bands in his neighborhood, but the main instrument he played was the piano. He began studying “infinity string” hemi bass. After some success playing at area music competitions in New Jersey, he met pianist Eliot Golub, whose 1971 album “Visions of Ludwig” was recorded on the Bob Hope network, which put him on a national stage. Ross also had the chance to work with the celebrated guitarist Carlos Santana. After Santana moved to San Francisco, he entrusted Ross with his musical works. Ross continues to play with Santana and Mario Candilo, who plays for the Oakland A’s and is the former drummer for Santana.

Since then, he’s been busier than ever. As a busy front man, Ross has performed frequently with Santana and released an album with Candilo. He’s also recorded three albums on his own. But it’s always been his guitar playing that has given him his biggest thrill. “My improvisation with a solo is like the ground you feel that you can cross,” Ross said. “That’s where the music enters.”

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