With tracks like Soft Rock and Grungy Brew, the latest album from US drummer Jeff Ballard was never going to be pure jazz. And Fairgrounds takes everything that makes the genre and shakes it up before allowing every musician involved to add their own twist. Improvisation brings influences from everywhere and sends it back where it came from.
This is Ballard’s first album for Edition Records and he shares the musical stage with Lionel Loueke, Kevin Hays, Reid Anderson and Pete Rende, alongside sax appearances from Mark Turner and Chris Cheek. And this is really about sharing – taking original compositions and creating the music together, regardless of dots and genre.
Of course, Jeff Ballard is perhaps the archetypal virtuoso drummer – his list of gigs include those with Ray Charles, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny and Brad Mehldau. His own playing, and the space he allows for his collaborators, cuts across any genre distinctions and the tracks meld into something symphonic.
Take almost any musical genre and there’s at least hints of it here. Alongside the heart of jazz, there’s rock and electronica and everything which uses any combination of 12 notes on any kind of acoustic, electric or digital tool.
There is something dream-like about this whole album, recorded live in various venues around Europe. And Ballard sees this in the opportunities open to him in this latest album and touring project: “I feel extremely lucky to have come into contact with Dave and Edition Records. It is sort of a dream come true in that I feel with them I have the means, the modern means, to reach a larger public with complete artistic freedom and support. This is one of the benefits of having a forward thinking independent label which is dedicated to the artist like Edition is. It is obvious to me that their focus is on quality and longevity. And to be honest the passion I sense from them is contagious. I’m excited not just about this new record release and reaching out and connecting to more people thru a variety of new (for me) ways but I am just as excited - if not more so - about what’s coming next. Thanks Edition!”
Dave Stapleton, head honcho at Edition Records was humbled and excited by this signing. He said of Ballard: “Not only is he regarded as one of the greatest drummers in jazz and has worked with some of the most celebrated musicians in this music, but he’s a musician and man of deep integrity and trust with an endless enthusiasm and passion. Jeff’s natural tendency to trust and his desire to work together on building audiences perfectly fits with our own vision of working in a very open and collaborative way with artists. We’re incredibly excited to start to work on this great music. I’ve no doubt it’s going to be a lot of fun’.
I want this album on when I’m being subjected to any kind of medical treatment or transport delays – Fairgrounds takes you away from the humdrum and the mundane.