Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Jeff Ballard Time's Tales Okeh 2014


Jeff Ballard's debut is a leader is long overdue and the trio format may never be the same!
Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com
 
Jeff Ballard is no stranger to the trio format anchoring to of the finest in the outrageously inventive FLY trio and of course the Brad Mehldau Trio. Time's Tales may fit somewhere in the middle as this somewhat autobiographical release explores the influence that continue to shape Ballard's performing today. An exotic and often hard charging hybrid of Latin, African and a hard bop fusion inspired piece finds The Jeff Ballard Trio on the cutting edge for an ensemble that can occasional get lost on the more predictable paths others have chosen.

A celebratory release marking his 50th birthday finds no signs of a drummer that is content with playing it safe but instead a leader confident enough in his two musical co-conspirators that an exploration of Latin and African rhythms can take on deeper meaning. Miguel Zenon is showcased with a gritty solo and arrangement on "El Reperador de Suenos" while Lionel Loueke goes full on with a no bull shit approach to "Hangin' Tree" which would make most metal guitarists sit up and take immediate notice. Some incredibly inventive post bop inspired free improvisation is meticulously placed within the recording and the end result is a release that is built around the groove but highlighted with the flavor of a trio that is working with a rare form of synergy rarely captured in such a small ensemble. Clearly, The Jeff Ballard Trio is far more than a leader and two after thoughts.

The Jeff Ballard Trio covers an immense amount of ground with some surprises. Time's Tales cuts a wide harmonic path and is a masterful marriage of the proverbial land of rhythm and groove with a delightful air of authenticity and forward thinking adventure. An absolute must!


Tracks: Virgin Forest; Western Wren; Beat Street; The Man I Love; Free 1; Hangin Tree; Dal; El Reparador De Suenos; Mivakpola; Free 3.

Personnel: Jeff Ballard: Drums; Lionel Loueke: Guitars; Miguel Zenon: Saxophones.