Jazz Interview with jazz drummer Jeff Ballard. interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Jeff Ballard: – Northern California. Santa Cruz.
JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the drums?
JB: – My father played drums when he was in he army. His love of jazz started me off.
JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the drums?
JB: – My first teacher was Russel Tincher. He taught me how to work on independence and reading. I took some lessons with Eddie Marshall as well. He showed me some more advanced things on the drums. He opened me up and introduced me to some things that Tony Williams was doing. I also had a few lessons with the amazing Professor Milford Graves.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
JB: – I think my sound evolved simply by my gaining more command of my instrument. I’ve always liked a wood or drummy sound so it became more defined as I grew as a player. There was one change in the way I played which did effect my sound quite a lot, as well as many other elements in my playing. And that came from investigations in the basic act of picking up the stick, and arm of course, and letting it fall. It’s much more involved than it sounds.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
JB: – The above mentioned investigations and examination in “watching” the sensation of gravity at work in each limb, “seeing” the connection to and the reaction with the whole body while I played extremely slow has been the most profound and informative practice I could have imagined. It applies to all aspects of playing.
JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating thru the music business. Is there any piece of advice you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?
JB: – If you can play honestly and you are fulfilled by what you are doing then that is true “success” to me. When I started out playing I never ever thought about “how” to get work or how to be known or get a recording deal. The answer is fairly obvious, no? – learn how to play as best as you can. I’m sure you will get some kind of work if you do.
The only advice i can think to give is play what you love and you’ll be fine. Let’s not confuse things. Why are you playing? Maybe it would be good to ask yourself the question: “what is success to you?” Follow that answer truthfully and bravely and I figure you will be fine.
JBN.S: – Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?
JB: – Of course.
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
JB: – Play them (the standards) well! and the songs should continue to offer good things for the player and listener to experience. Also search everywhere and find other good songs to learn. There are many many more great tunes out there (from 50 years ago as well as from 50 weeks ago) than the limited choices I often see with students learning he music. Yes, of course, expand what is the common repertoire of these days but it should be these young people you’re talking about who should be doing this work. I doubt that someone really showed Ellington or Mingus or Charlie Parker or whomever, the music they chose to play listen to. Music was in their life like it is with us. On the radio, in theaters, clubs. And we have of course Internet, TV too. They had music in them and they worked exceptionally hard to find out how it works and how to get it to come out.
JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?
JB: – I have a record I’m finishing up with a group of mine called. Jeff Ballard Fairgrounds. It is with Lionel Loueke; Kevin Hayes; Reid Anderson; and Pete Rende. It’s my second for Okay/Sony Records.
Fear and anxiety? People killing people does that to me.
JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?
JB: – There are lots of things I want to do: Playing all kinds of different music with new folks (or old folks) as well as continued playing with the people I love and respect and with whom I am very fortunate to work with already. I feel quite full and I’m very thankful for that. But I have to say, I’m not sure what’s next really.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
JB: – Ray Charles; Ben Webster and Harry Edison; Elis Regina and Tom Jobim; Queens of the Stone Age; Earth Wind and Fire; Bob Marley; John Coltrane; Bird; Chick Webb; Count Basie; Jo Jones….etc etc. I love to listen to Harry Nilsson or D’Angelo and a Tribe Called Quest or Bach or whatever. At the moment I’m listening to whatever mood I’m in.
JBN.S: – What’s your current setup?
JB: – Two snares. One which is either tuned way way down or way way up a 12×8 rack and a 14×14 floor tom and either an 18″x 14″ or a 20″x 14 bass drum. Two cymbals (old Ks) and a pair of hi hat 14 on top and a 15 on the bottom. The 14 is an old Paiste Sound Creation and the bottom hat is an Om. My own kit is a Camco. I have a Craviotto Bird’s eye maple single ply snare which is amazing.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan