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In the Jeff Ballard Trio, wach musician comes from a completely different place: Lionel is from Benin, Miguel from Puerto Rico and Jeff from North America. The band and music come together in the love, respect, and open-mindedness they have for all genres of music across the globe and from all epochs. There are no borders to dictate their sound except their own desires and taste. Each musician brings his own cultural roots to their music, whether it be from the American song book or an Iranian folk melody. Their sound is defined and proudly flavored with the distinction imparted by each of their countries heritage. It is contemporary and relevant within the current times. The repertoire they play includes Thelonius Monk, Iranian folk melodies, Bartok, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin and improvised melodies from bird calls. They cover songs from pop artists such as Queens Of The Stone Age and Stevie Wonder, as well as playing their own compositions. The music is full of complex rhythms, exotic harmonies and soulful melodies. It is rhythmically very precise whilst playing openly and freely, deliberately pushing and breaking down any limits that harmony and rhythm might present resulting in dynamic tensions and suspense. Time's Tales is the trio's first CD. The overall idea of the recording was to make the sound reflect the character of the band as closely as possible. Everything was recorded with all musicians playing in the same room together and was recorded to 2 inch analogue tape, capturing the organic nature of the group's sound and exciting musical interaction between the players. The repertoire on Time's Tales is as varied and adventurous as the trio's live performances are. The CD opens with Lionel's Virgin Forest which, with the yells and a laugh at the beginning of the track, exhibits the enthusiasm there is in this ensemble. The song is a funky African groove in 9/4. The second piece is a transcription of a Western Wren bird call
- Product Dimensions : 5.6 x 4.94 x 0.38 inches; 3.2 Ounces
- Manufacturer : SONY MASTERWORKS
- Original Release Date : 2014
- Run time : 56 minutes
- Date First Available : December 14, 2013
- Label : SONY MASTERWORKS
- ASIN : B00G9JIZ08
- Number of discs : 1
- Best Sellers Rank: #273,251 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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Despite these reservations this record proves to get better with successive listens. Loueke's wonderfully slippery and golden guitar sound is always a joy to hear and repeated spins reveals that there is often a lot of music going on in this disc. My favourite tracks are those that are more "outside", whether this is the final, freely improvised piece or the notated bird call which manages to sound like it was written by Ornette Coleman as opposed to originating from nature. The only standard is pitched squarely in Motian territory and includes one of the most imaginative of Loueke's solos. Elsewhere the cover of the "Queens of the Stone Age" track is extremely grungy with some blistering alto from Zenon over the drummer's bombast.
All in all, this is a mixed selection of tracks. Some work better than others and whilst this trio masterfully manage to dispense with a bass, the more thoughtful and considered arrangements seem to offer a lot of musical intelligence. The opening "Virgin Forest" and "Beat Street" offer a more contemporary mainstream approach with perhaps the latin track being the least rewarding - especially in comparison with the kind of sparks that Zenon can create on his own records such as the classic "ceremonial,." Paul Motian's trio evolved over many years and had a degree of cohesion that I felt marked it down as one of the greatest ever bands in the history of jazz. In comparison, Ballard's trio occasionally tips it's hat towards Motian yet seems more to be concerned with musical problem solving than basking in an established group identity that comes with performing together for years. For this reviewer, I prefer the edgier and more experimental stuff on "Time's Tales" where the three musicians hone their craft. This is not a "difficult" listen by any means and the seemingly lop-sided instrumentation is never an issue with Loueke frequently playing bass parts and Ballard's drums filling out the sound of the group. This is a rewarding record but the disc's occasional drift towards less experimental areas robs this of a fifth star that would have been automatic had the more conservative elements been jettisoned. I suppose that this is indicative of the fact that the more innovative styles of jazz are now to be found in Chicago as opposed to New York. Anything with Loueke on is worth a listen and for any jazz fan looking for intelligent music making will find it in abundance on this CD. A whole album of the fascinating, experimental birdsong music would, for example, have made this an early contender for best jazz CD of 2014.