Ross Hammond the musician has a lot in common with Ross Hammond the music festival curator. Both are creative entrepreneurs who understand the importance of timing, patience and knowing when to make something happen.
Hammond identifies himself primarily as a jazz musician, which covers a lot of territory these days. Hammond's In the Flow Festival similarly takes in a wide range of improvisation and groove-based performance.
Hammond started the midtown event in 2008, feeling progressive music needed celebrating in Sacramento, and he's consistently grown and developed the idea. This year's In the Flow features six days and nights of performances across five venues from Wednesday through May 14.
"As a musical experience it's grown every year, and word of mouth has just continually built it up," Hammond said.
The festival incorporates jazz and improvised music from artists up and down the West Coast from Los Angeles to Seattle, with a strong Bay Area contingent and musicians from the foothills. Hammond himself selects and books all the performers, many of whom have come through his long- running series at Luna's called Nebraska Mondays.
Inquiries from groups looking to play the festival have multiplied each year since Hammond inaugurated the spring event.
"I started getting email from people looking to get booked into the festival as far back as the fall," Hammond said.
"These are bands I haven't heard of, or bands that are new, and it makes me feel like the word's getting out about us a lot more."
This year's festival moves from Bay Area legends Broun Fellinis to the fresh-faced Sacramento band Cave Women.
As much as the festival is based in improvisation, modern bands resist genres and categories, so the music might move from what sounds like chamber jazz to thrash punk. While much of the material is original, composers from Duke Ellington to P.J. Harvey could be represented.
There's broad-based institutional support from organizations including the Midtown Business Association as well as more likely suspects such as the hipster free music newspaper Submerge.
"Now we have more local businesses who want to help sponsor us or be partners," Hammond said.
"It's just easier now to get people on board, and you really need that."
Hammond will have In the Flow events at five venues this year Antiquité Maison Privee, Luna's Cafe and Phono Select Records, which hosted events last year, along with Bows & Arrows and the Sacramento Poetry Center at California Stage, which both are new to the festival.
"We've always had poetry, but this is the first time it'll be at a poetry venue. It'll be a poetry-and-music marriage night," Hammond said.
"Bows & Arrows draws a different crowd than some of these other places do, so it'll be great to mix it up a little bit. To survive, you need to spread your audience around."
Hammond can see the day when he celebrates 20 years of In the Flow Festivals as he continues growing the event.
"It feels like we've taken this grass-roots approach and built it up very organically by musicians, for musicians, very DIY. It's still true to that."