Born: June 13, 1965 Primary Instrument: Sax, tenor
A native of Toronto, Canada, Andy Ballantyne began learning music in the Toronto public school system, studying clarinet and saxophone. He soon developed an interest in jazz and studied privately with Woody Herman alumnus Steve Lederer. Later teachers included Pat Labarbara, Alex Dean and Mike Murley. Exposure to recordings of the Stan Kenton Band, Nimmons and Nine Plus Six, and especially Rob McConnell’s Boss Brass fueled an early interest in composition and arranging. Andy went on to study arranging, orchestration and composition with Ron Collier at Humber College and Phil Nimmons at the University of Toronto. Andy gained his first professional experience at Expo’86 in Vancouver playing daily for five months with the Humber College big band under the direction of Ron Collier, and went on to play in the Ron Collier Jazz Orchestra up until the time of Ron’s death in 2003. Over the past 20 years, Andy has established himself on the Toronto scene as a versatile performer on saxophone and woodwinds, as well as an arranger and jazz educator. He is a regular member of several noted jazz groups, including NOJO, John Macleod’s Rex Hotel Orchestra, the Art of Jazz Big Band, Nimmons and Nine Now, and the Paul Read Orchestra. Andy has also performed with groups led by Don Thompson, Dave Young, Mark McLean, Mike McClennan and Laila Biali. Career highlight include appearances with some of the world’s foremost jazz musicians and composers including Dave Holland, Sam Rivers, Don Byron, Kevin Mahogany, Vince Mendoza, Kenny Wheeler and Carla Bley. Andy has recorded performances for broadcast on CBC’s “Jazz Beat”, and for Jazz FM’s “Sound of Toronto Jazz” series, and he also toured western Canada with NOJO9 in 2005. Andy’s arrangements and compositions have been featured on several recordings (see discography), and have also been performed by the University of Toronto Ten O’Clock Jazz Orchestra at the International Association of Jazz Educators Conference in Atlanta (1996) and Toronto (2003). He has also contributed original compositions to Nimmons and Nine Now, a group formed by guitarist Mike Cado and overseen by Phil Nimmons to perform Phil’s music from the 1950’s, and to explore new directions for this unconventional instrumentation. Andy has been on the faculty at Humber College since 2002 teaching theory, composition and arranging, as well as coaching ensembles and giving private instruction on saxophone Over the past few years composition has become an increasingly large part of Andy’s creative output, culminating in the debut of the Andy Ballantyne Large Ensemble at the Rex Jazz Bar in Toronto in March of 2006. This 11-piece band performs original compositions and arrangements by Andy and includes some of Canada’s finest jazz musicians; most notably David Braid, Kevin Turcotte, William Carn and Kelly Jefferson. Influenced by the compositions of Dave Holland, Maria Schneider and Jim McNeely, A.B.L.E. is rooted in the jazz tradition, but seeks to push the boundaries of jazz ensemble writing. The focus is on original compositions, imaginative arrangements of familiar jazz standards, and new interpretations of music by artists from outside the jazz tradition including Bob Marley and Joni Mitchell. A.B.L.E.’s debut CD, The Sum of the Parts was released in January of 2008, and is available at www.cdbaby.com/andyballantyne and also on itunes.
Geoff Chapman, Coda Magazine, March/April 2008
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