Iain Ballamy rediscovers his jazz roots in an album that came out of a commission for the Cheltenham Jazz Festival with support from the Jerwood Foundation. In the sleeve notes to the album he writes:
“Over the past 20 years my music has been described variously as ‘eclectic, contemporary and English’– certainly not as ‘retro, straight-ahead or in the American style’. So what marks this return to the ‘classic’ jazz format with ‘More Jazz’?
Although my true ‘jazz roots’ have never been too deeply concealed, some aficionados might argue that much of my past output is not strictly ‘jazz’. Who decides the criteria, I wonder, by which jazz can be deemed authentic? Regardless of the argument or the answer, it felt like the right time to look both backwards and forwards at the same time and to create ‘a modern jazz record with traditional sensibilities. By re-working classics such as ‘All The Things You Are’, ‘I Got Rhythm’ and ‘Stella By Starlight‘, I’m striving to create a bridge between jazz past and present. I can empathize with a well seasoned jazz listener who might feel that in much contemporary jazz, discernable points of reference are rather thin on the ground or even absent altogether. Equally, forward thinkers could argue that the current re-kindling of ‘the tradition’ often lacks freshness, risk or originality - as if the music is simply stewing in the rich juices of its own history and crying out for re-invention. Re-invention is in the true tradition of jazz – the forward momentum that has always kept the music evolving and sounding ‘of its own time’.”
Parallel to his international jazz career, Ballamy has pursued his interest in world music, playing concerts in India and Europe with the Karnataka College of Percussion. He has performed and forged strong working relationships with renowned musicians from Hungary, Norway, Spain, Sudan, Brazil and beyond.
arts projects include tours with Sankalpam the contemporary Indian Dance
group and Ballamy's acclaimed role as 'Steve the prat' in Simon Black's
stage play 'Out There' which toured Britain in 1995 and '96.
Ballamy recently scored the award winning film Mirrormask directed by Dave McKean for the Jim Henson Company.
Ballamy's wide-ranging musical interests add depth and creativity to his music, which can be clearly heard on Veggie and Last Supper release by Rune Gramafon (featuring Norwegians Arve Henriksen, Mats Eilertsen and Thomas Stronen).
Ballamy is an agony uncle for jazz UK magazine with his column ‘In the saxophonists chair’. In 2001 he was awarded the BBC Radio 3 special award for innovation at the British Jazz awards. He is also a specialist tutor at the Royal Academy and Trinity College of music in London.
Described as “a jewel of a player…spinning out luminous introductions and codas” by Jazziz Magazine (USA), he has dazzled audiences not only by his virtuosic approach to the piano, but also by his talents on guitar and as a singer.
He describes his musical references as Bill Evans, Welsh Tenor David Lloyd, Big Bill Broonzy, Mahler, Coltrane and Thin Lizzy.
An electrifying performer, he has been described as “…a fantastic improviser” by John Fordham in the Guardian and “If you’ve seen Williams perform, you’ll know that he’s the embodiment of creative energy, a physical player who gets wrapped up in his work, with a keyboard command that’s both impressive and well directed” by Peter Vacher in Jazzwise.
include Us3, Claire Martin for whom he acted as MD and performances worldwide
with Jim Mullen, Bud Shank, James Moody, George Coleman, Tommy Smith and
His first ambition was to become a professional cricketer, an aim that was realized when he played for five years in the minor counties.
After receiving a place at London's Royal Academy of Music, Orlando decided to give up cricket and pursue his love of music. While based in London, he quickly established himself as one of the UK's most prominent bass players touring and recording with Jason Rebello, Julian Joseph, Desree, Tommy Smith, Mica Paris, Jean Toussaint and Guy Barker. With the advantage of being based in Europe, Orlando was also in demand to perform and tour with visiting U.S. musicians such as Bill Charlap, Don Braden, Dave Liebman, Jeff Watts, Joey Calderazzo and most notably, Branford Marsalis.
Since moving to New York in January 2003, Orlando has toured with Billy Cobham's new group "The Art of Five", and most recently he has become a permanent member of Jane Monheit's band.
He began performing at the age of twelve backing singers in Working Men's clubs with Organ trios in and around Manchester, and in 1983 he began his recording career performing on several records for ECM.
A turning point in his early career was his role within the Eighties big band LOOSE TUBES where he began long standing partnerships with many of its members. His association with Django Bates has led to many diverse projects away from the "Jazz" environment they normally occupy with HUMAN CHAIN and DELIGHTFUL PRECIPICE. These include film soundtracks, Jazz theatre, cross cultural collaborations and recording projects involving orchestras such as The London Sinfonietta, BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra and ASKO Ensemble in Amsterdam.
He is also active as a studio musician working on TV and Film soundtracks and is involved in programming and composing for many projects and artists, including his own band, SPIN MARVEL. Along the way Martin has performed and recorded with some of the world's best musicians including David Gilmour, John Taylor, Kenny Wheeler, Ralph Towner, Lee Konitz, Dave Holland, Arild Anderson, Mark Johnson, Steve Swallow, Chris Laurence, Gwilym Simcock, Bob Mintzer and The Yellowjackets, Nils-Petter Molvaer, Bugge Wesseltoft, Mike Gibbs, Maria Schneider, Sidsel Endresen and Maria Joao.
Son of an
accomplished jazz pianist and, himself, a stalwart of the 1980s British
jazz revolution, Iain Ballamy proclaims his return to his jazz roots with
a distinguished group of ‘still young’ musicians in Anorak.
Perhaps the reason those of us who witnessed it now doubt whether the
1980’s ‘revolution’ ever took place is because, with
few exceptions, it venerated and built on past achievements at the expense
of significant new departures in jazz. Like several big names of the 1980s,
Iain Ballamy drifted out of jazz to other contemporary styles. Rhythm
and grace seemed scarce by the time jazz reached UK shores, having exhausted
supplies around the perimeter of
04/08/2007 John Bungey. The Times 4 stars ****
He was a star of the laddish big band Loose Tubes, he went Nordic with the avant-garde Food and he plays a mean Teddy Bears Picnic.
But what nobody associates the saxophonist with is traditional US jazz. Here, though, he slyly updates the tunes that he heard at his piano-playing father’s knee. The quartet’s playing is top-notch – listen to Ballamy and Gareth Williams on piano scorch through the bluesy bebop of The Worm. There will be nonanoraks who mistake the saxophonist on Tribute to Alan Skidmore’s Tribute to John Coltrane for the great dead legend himself. This is a record that carries off the neat trick of having one foot planted firmly in the past and another in the present.
13/07/2007 John Fordham, Guardian 4 stars ****
Maybe the saxophonist Iain Ballamy doesn't go out of his way to flatter
his quartet by calling it Anorak - the idea seems to be that it nods to
the jazz tradition more explicitly than some of his more eclectic world-music
ventures do. But there's nothing nerdily inhibited or derivative about
the music here, a mix of mazy postbop jazz lines with postponed resolutions
and circus-music bounce.
06/07/2007 Fiona Shepherd, The Scotsman ****
On More Jazz, Ballamy’s working with a UK rhythm section and (almost) playing straight-ahead jazz. Never conventional, instead of improvising on well-known tunes, he’s written his own: each one built around the kernel of a standard. “Tribute to Alan Skidmore’s Tribute to John Coltrane” starts meditative and airy, and suddenly the apparition of Coltrane’s “Resolution” looms up, hefty chords grounding you for a moment in 1964. “The Worm” is frenetic and edgy, while “St. Ella (Reprise)” whispers through the tenor’s upper register, hinting darkly at the melody of (you guessed it) “Stella By Starlight”.
Jazz anoraks will chuckle at the veiled references to standards in the track list, but non-nerds – well, you needn’t feel left out. This is honest jazz played by some of the UK’s best.
01/07/2007 Stuart Nicholson, Jazzwise 4 stars****
Listen to his solo on the altered blues “The Worm” – has Ballamy ever played the blues on record before – I don’t think so. Yet it’s an odd sort of blues, 12 bars OK, but two lots of 12 bars using descending and ascending whole tones. Fascinating. And the way he captures the spirit of John Coltrane on ‘Tribute to Alan Skidmore’s Tribute to John Coltrane’ without becoming a clone, or his deconstruction of ‘I Got Rhythm’ that point to an enormously accomplished jazz musician.
08/06/2007 Alan Brownlee, Manchester Evening News
Tubes circus in the Eighties, mischief always bubbles under the surface. My Way crosses the Sinatra chestnut with Coltrane's Giant Steps, and an original tune, Tribute To Alan Skidmore's Tribute To John Coltrane, manages to honour two great players at once.
Trane seems to be the presiding spirit then, but Ballamy's tone is more lyrical than remorseless, more relaxed than magisterial.
The tunes are marvellous throughout and the musicianship - with Gareth Williams on piano, Orlando Le Fleming on double bass, and Martin France on drums - is consistently high.
06/06/2007 Ian Mann, 24Dash.com
22/05/2007 Chris Parker, Vortex Website