Indianapolis-born jazz guitarist/composer Charlie Ballantine
has a special relationship with American music of all kinds: jazz, folk, the blues (his father was a blues guitarist, providing some of Ballantine's earliest musical memories) and contemporary rock. His previous album Life Is Brief: The Music Of Bob Dylan
(Green Mind Records, 2018) made the inspiration outside of jazz clear, and previous covers had included songs by Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and the Pixies.
This albuma trio with long-time band-mates bassist Jesse Wittman
and drummer Chris Parker
returns to mainly Ballantine originals. "Strange Idea" opens the set with a jagged theme that may not be truly strange, but it certainly is a departure from the Americana flavor of many of Ballantine's compositions. The band develops the theme into a massive, over-driven climax. The title tune continues a bit of that angular feeling, also offering Wittman a fine solo bass spotlight. Ballantine abandoned an attempt at an all-standards album to follow Life Is Brief
, but two standards made it onto this program.
"My One and Only Love" became known from Frank Sinatra
's version; it later became a tenor saxophone vehicle for players including Ben Webster
, John Coltrane
and Sonny Rollins
. After a lyrical, rubato treatment of the tune the arrangement veers into electronic territory with backwards guitar accompaniment (but introduced in a way that seems completely natural). "East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)" was again recorded by Frank Sinatra (with the Tommy Dorsey
Orchestra), then by singer Sarah Vaughan
, alto saxophonist Charlie Parker
and many others. The trio's upbeat rendition provides ample demonstration of their ability to swing.
"Moon City" ends the album with loops riding on top of the haunting chordal vamp that underlies the whole song. A fitting conclusion to a program that smoothly integrates bebop-based small group jazz, contemporary electric guitar techniques and creative composition. The Bob Dylan
tribute brought Charlie Ballantine some much-deserved attention, but his own music is just as worthy of notice.
Strange Idea; Zani; Cold Coffee; My One and Only Love; Further; East of the Sun; Bliss; Moon City.
Charlie Ballantine: guitar; Jesse Wittman: double bass; Chris Parker: drums.