Home » Jazz Articles » Charlie Ballantine: Vonnegut


Album Review

Charlie Ballantine: Vonnegut


Sign in to view read count
Charlie Ballantine: Vonnegut
Indianapolis-based guitarist/composer Charlie Ballantine took his inspiration from iconic American novelist Kurt Vonnegut for this project, the most complex set of music in his already lengthy and varied recording career. He was joined by fellow Indianapolis musicians: saxophonist Rob Dixon, saxophonist/clarinetist Amanda Gardier, pianist Mina Keohane, bassist Jesse Wittman and drummer Cassius Goens. Dixon, Gardier and Wittman have appeared on several prior Ballantine recordings, so there is a strong base of shared experience to draw upon.

Kurt Vonnegut also came from Indianapolis, and Ballantine feels that they share a typically Midwestern cynicism and dark humor. "Sympathy for Malachi Constant" (a character from 1959's The Sirens of Titan) opens the album with a tuneful, slightly off-kilter march, and features Gardier's lyrical alto saxophone solo. "The Mind of Dwayne Hoover" (from Breakfast of Champions, from 1973) is a driving hard bop anthem which pares down to a trio for Ballantine's expansive jazz/rock solo. "Eloise Metzger" features Rob Funkhouser's music box in the introduction and the coda, setting up an atmosphere of dream-like melancholy: appropriate for a character who was an accidental gunshot victim in Deadeye Dick (1982).

"Unk" is a lovely acoustic guitar/double bass duet on the main theme of "Sympathy for Malachi Constant" (Unk was the character's other name in Sirens of Titan). A repeated riff drives "No Damn Cat, No Damn Cradle" (a reference to the central irony in 1963's Cat's Cradle) forward, featuring Dixon's tenor saxophone solo. "Space Wanderer" is another brief rearrangement of the "Malachi Constant" theme, this time with Ballantine dubbing electric guitar over the acoustic guitar/bass duet. "Kilgore in Breakfast of Champions" (a second reference to the recurring character of science fiction author Kilgore Trout) goes back to bebop, with a theme reminiscent of Thelonious Monk. "So It Goes" (a repeated stoic refrain in 1969's Slaughterhouse-Five) is a lovely acoustic guitar solo which fittingly concludes the album.

It should be noted that familiarity with Vonnegut's writing is definitely not required to appreciate what Ballantine has done here: it stands on its own as one of his finest albums. But he would no doubt be pleased if some listeners were moved to investigate the source of his inspiration.

Track Listing

Sympathy for Malachi Constant; The Mind of Dwayne Hoover; Eloise Metzger; Unk; Kilgore in Timequake; No Damn Cat, No Damn Cradle; Space Wanderer; Kilgore in Breakfast of Champions; So It Goes.


Additional Instrumentation

Rob Dixon: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone (solos 3,5,6,); Amanda Gardier: alto saxophone, bass clarinet (solos 1,2,5,8,); Rob Funkhouser: music box (3).

Album information

Title: Vonnegut | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Green Mind Records

Post a comment

Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.



RBG Trio
RBG Trio
Other Doors
Soft Machine


On the record

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.