Iain Ballamy - Mainstream Interruptus

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Iain Ballamy emerged from the seminal 1980s big band Loose Tubes as one of the stars of his generation of UK jazz musicians. A dazzling soloist with a recognisable sound and a soft “English” sense of playing, equally capable of responding to the humour and eccentricity of his homeland as much as possessing the ability to deliver a Coltrane-inspired solo line just as a leading American player could do. As his solo career developed he made his name with the inspired records Balloon Man and All Men, Amen while also contributing to Bill Bruford’s Earthworks and Django Bates’ Human Chain as well as finding new directions with his Anglo-Norwegian group Food. In recent years his recording activity has dwindled to a trickle so it is with considerable anticipation that greets the release of his new record More Jazz in the company of his group Anorak out this month. But what has changed since Ballamy’s last outing? Interview: Stuart Nicholson Iain Ballamy - Mainstream Interruptus
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, after all saxophonist Iain Ballamy has worked with the likes of George Coleman, Cedar Walton, Gil Evans and Dewey Redman, but his latest album More Jazz does make you want to do a double take. Perhaps it’s because his image as the eternally youthful saxophonist who burst on the scene as a member of genre busting Loose Tubes, his musical adventures with arch humorist Django Bates or his quixotic band Food precede him. You sort of think you know what to expect from Iain Ballamy. Well, think again.

More Jazz bursts out of your speakers with the confident swagger of a musician at one with his craft. This is top drawer straightahead jazz on a set of eight originals that often sound as if they are standards, but turn out to be crafty re-harms, contrafacts and reconfigurations so that ‘Stella By Starlight’ becomes ‘St. Ella,’ ‘I Got Rhythm’ becomes ‘I Got Rid of Them,’ and ‘All the Things You Are’ becomes ‘Of All Things.’

If all this sounds like a born-again Ballamy, a sober re-invention of a musician past the dreaded four-oh closing the door on the youthful exuberance of tunes like ‘Free Bonky’ you’d be wrong. “It’s a big part of what I am and it’s also a big part of what I think,” says Ballamy, whose mentor was once sax legend George Coleman.

“A lot of people don’t know about all that and because of all the things I have done, they think, ‘Oh yes he can do all that weird stuff but can’t really swing,’ or ‘He can’t really play.’ I’d just like to suggest they’re wrong – basically. If that’s the way people have to be judged then they can be judged by that, you know? That’s alright with me!”

This is an extract from Jazzwise Issue #110 to read the full feature and receive a Free CD subscribe here…