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Charlie Ballantine: Falling Grace


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Charlie Ballantine: Falling Grace
At 33, Ballantine has recorded eight albums and they are all gems. His range is wide and eclectic with tributes to Bob Dylan, Thelonious Monk and Kurt Vonnegut. But his December 2022 release stands out as a masterpiece of artistry, melody, and deep feeling. Falling Grace doesn't hit one over the head right away, but you might find you can't stop playing it over and over again.

Ballantine's guitar style is crisp as an autumn morning, bluesy as a broken heart, and relaxing as floating down a lazy river. The way he spins out long, beautiful, melodic solos over and over again is what sets his playing apart from any other jazz guitarist on the scene. His effortless fusion of jazz, rock, blues, and folk has evolved into his own thrilling aesthetic.

Ballantine grew up in a musical household; his father was a professional blues guitarist in Indianapolis where he's lived his whole life. He plays his Telecaster (unusual for a jazz musician) with commanding fluidity, passion, and grace.

The penultimate and title song, "Falling Grace" by Steve Swallow, is confident, flowing, virtuosic and loads of fast-paced fun. And never a boring moment. Compare this version to the one on John Scofield's Swallow Tales (ECM, 2020). Ballantine's version smokes it.

The opening song, Dido's "Thank You," features a plaintive, slow groove that shimmers with tender beauty. Steven Jones's piano contributions dance with majesty and grace. Breathtaking.

"Sweet Tooth" opens with a rock riff and then proceeds to unfurl one of the most intense and dramatic solos on the album. And like every other song, there's a memorable melodic hook that connects with mind, body, and heart.

"River's Dream" is a lazy, happy day on the river with the family. Quiet, relaxed joy. In contrast, Cold Play's "Fix You" captures the sad but hopeful feeling of the original.

The center of gravity of the album, McCoy Tyner's "Contemplation" (appearing in two versions), is dark, sad and, well, contemplative. The melody pierces the heart.

The emotional range of this album is wide, deep, and honest. It's hard to think of any other contemporary jazz guitar album that truly equals it. What Ballantine has accomplished can't really be captured in words. It's everything great music should be and as close to perfection as one could imagine.

Falling Grace may be Ballantine's Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959) for the 21st Century. It flows, grooves, dances, and soars above the crowd. Sadly, it's not yet available on CD or vinyl, only digital and streaming versions. But the sound is as clear as a bell.

See this excellent sketch of Ballantine on AAJ: https://www.allaboutjazz.com/musicians/charlie-ballantine/

The video below is a newly released single from his newest project, SuperVibe, "Now It's Tomorrow." Funky as all get out featuring Kevin Aker on B3. Get ready to dance!

Track Listing

Thank You; Sweet Tooth; River's Dream; Contemplation; Fix You; Snow Angel; Falling Grace; Contemplation.


Charlie Ballantine: guitar, electric; Steven Jones: piano; Jesse Whitman: bass; Cassius Goens: drums.

Album information

Title: Falling Grace | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Self Produced

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