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Published: 2014/04/23
by Ron Hart

Jeff Ballard Trio
Time's Tales


Jeff Ballard may primarily be known for his role as the backbone of the Brad Mehldau Trio.

But the drummer’s resume extends far beyond his work with the maestro of modern piano jazz, having honed his chops through the years sitting in with such immortals as Ray Charles, Lou Donaldson and Chick Corea to name but an elite few.

Now the leader of his own boffo trio, comprised of Lionel Loueke on guitar and saxophonist Miguel Zenon, Ballard sets himself apart from his repertoire with some of the most daring jazz of his career yet. On Time’s Tales, the drummer liberally infuses the sonic ethnocentricities of his bandmates on standout tracks like the polyrhythmic, Loueke-composed “Virgin Forest” and the Zenon-arranged rendition of the Silvio Rodriguez bolero “El Reperador de Suenos”. Ballard’s hunger for adventure is further reflected in a translation of Hungarian pianist Bela Bartok’s “44 Duos for Two Voilins” for his trio on “Dal (A Rhythm Song)”, a faithful version of “Hanging Tree” by Queens of the Stone Age and, perhaps most notably, “Western Wren”, which employs samples of bird calls recorded by National Geographic as an anchor for a masterful session of cool improvisation.

Mr. Ballard’s 2014 will also be seeing the debut album from his other new group, the Jeff Ballard Fairgrounds featuring Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker and Eddie Henderson from Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi on trumpet, as well as a new record from his ECM trio Fly and a follow-up to the Brad Mehldau Trio’s 2011 LP Ode. But Time’s Tales stands tall above the fray as a pivotal creative milestone in the career of this new school giant of the kit.

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