Coming up through the ranks in the final decades of the 20th century, Marty Ballou kept an open mind and opened his ears to the joys and possibilities of every musical opportunity which presented itself to the young bassist. He became equally adept on the upright bass violin and the electric bass guitar and his massive body of work, in the studio and on the stage, stands him alongside the all-time greats on both instruments. Marty is at the top of the list of New England’s “first-call” bassists. Highly regarded nationally for his work in the jazz and blues fields, he is equally at home in other genres including folk, rock, pop and Americana.
Marty Ballou was born in 1960 and grew up in South Kingstown, Rhode Island, graduating from high school in 1978. He later attended Northeastern University and the University of Rhode Island. He studied improvisation with trombonist/educator Hal Crook, jazz guitar with Leo Amitrano, classical guitar with Vincent Fraioli, and acoustic bass with John Lockwood. His professional career began in 1979.
From 1986 to 1992, he performed and recorded with the vocal jazz group, The Ritz (formerly known as Puttin’ On The Ritz), playing at the Fresno and Helsinki Jazz Festivals, the Newport Jazz Festival in Japan, and numerous clubs throughout the world. While with The Ritz, Marty recorded six internationally released albums, one for Pausa Records and five for Denon Records including their 1987 self-titled release featuring tenor sax giant Frank Wess and their final album, Almost Blue, with legendary trumpet and flugelhorn player Clark Terry.
While a member of The Ritz, Marty had the opportunity to record alongside jazz trumpet and flugelhorn legend Clark Terry when Terry guested on their 1991 album release. (Denon Records CY-77999)
Beginning in 1992, Marty spent the next five years as a member of the Duke Robillard Band, recording several albums behind the guitar legand and touring the U.S., Europe, Australia and South America.
The Duke Robillard Band enjoying a visit from a very special guest during their 1996 appearance at Wilbert’s in Cleveland, Ohio – blues legend Robert Jr. Lockwood. Shown left to right are drummer Marty Richards, saxophonist Gordon “Sax Gordon” Beadle, Marty Ballou, Duke Robillard and Robert Jr. Lockwood.
In the 2000, the Duke Robillard Band backed blues great Jimmy Witherspoon for a live album appropriately entitled “Jimmy Witherspoon with the Duke Robillard Band” (Stony Plain Records 1252)
Like most of his contemporaries on the southern New England blues scene, Marty served a stint with Roomful of Blues beginning in 1998. He formed the final Roomful rhythm section to feature original drummer John Rossi and recorded one of the band’s most celebrated albums, There Goes The Neighborhood.