Born: October 8, 1963 Primary Instrument: Piano
Saskatchewan born, New York-based jazz pianist Jon Ballantyne started playing piano at a very early age, and began formal study at the age of six. His father is also a pianist and both parents’ jazz enthusiasts; therefore Jon was hearing the recordings of greats such as Lenny Breau, Oscar Peterson, Miles Davis, Bill Evans and Duke Ellington from the beginning of his life.
After the early years of absorbing his father's blues-based approach to piano, classical piano studies, and a stint in a garage rock band as a young teenager, Jon realized his passion and decided to more thoroughly investigate the art form of jazz. This quest led to his winning of a scholarship to attend first Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario, followed by classes at the University of Saskatchewan, and finally another scholarship to attend North Texas State University. As an honours student at NTSU, Jon was asked to and did play with in small group formats with visiting artists such as Elvin Jones, Ron Carter, Michael Brecker, Joe Henderson, Emily Remler and Nat Adderley. Jon hit it off particularly well with Joe Henderson and would, just three years later, reunite with Henderson to record in Montreal (with the rhythm section made up of fellow Canadians Jerry Fuller and Neil Swainson) what has become a Canadian jazz classic-“Sky Dance” (Justin Time) which won a Juno award in 1990.
In the mid-eighties, Jon attended jazz workshops at the Banff Center of the Arts in Alberta, Canada; studying and playing with Kenny Wheeler, Don Thompson, Phil Nimmons, Dave Holland, Dave Liebman, Ed Blackwell, Lee Konitz, Cecil Taylor, John Abercrombie, Karl Berger, and Steve Coleman. Fellow students in Banff included Mike Murley, Perry White, Hugh Fraser and Michael Blake, to name a few. At this time, he also studied in NYC with Barry Harris, Kenny Barron, Hal Galper and JoAnn Brackeen.
This period of intensive study naturally led to a performance career, and Jon often shared (and shares) the stage or recording studio with some of the world's finest musicians, including, as mentioned previously, Joe Henderson, as well as Roy Haynes, Paul Bley, Dewey Redman, Don Thompson, Dave Liebman, Billy Hart, Gene Jackson, Ben Street, Mick Goodrick, Scott Colley, Reid Anderson, Craig Handy, George Garzone, Ed Bickert, Phil Dwyer, Yannick Rieu, Pepper Adams , Kevin Dean, Mike Allen, Terry Clarke, P.J. Perry, Andre White, Drew Gress, Charles Fambrough, Rich Perry, Benny Wallace, Ray Drummond, Ben Perowsky, The Mingus Big Band, Woody Herman's Thundering Herd, Clark Terry, Al Cohn, Red Mitchell, Jimmy Guiffre, Shorty Rodgers, Buddy DeFranco and Joe Lovano. Traveling often, Jon has performed in eight European countries, the UK, Japan, most provinces and major jazz festivals in Canada, and more than 40 states in the USA.
As a six-year resident of Park Slope, Brooklyn in the 90's, Jon also played countless jam sessions in his studio apartment with young musicians, most of them neighbors, such as Seamus Blake, Mark Turner, Owen Howard, Donny McAslin, Bill Carrothers, Hugh Sicotte, John McKenna, Dave Pietro, Tony Scherr, Johaness Viedenmueller and Matt Wilson.
As an educator, Jon has conducted master classes at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, and at many universities in Canada and the USA. Over the years, he has played several mini-concerts and conducted workshops at elementary and high schools in Saskatoon, the city in which he grew up and manages to visit at least twice a year.
In the 21st Century, Jon has been very active leading a Manhattan-based and critically acclaimed quartet featuring bassist Boris Kozlov, drummer Jeff Hirshfield and saxophonist/bass clarintetist Douglas Yates. A 2005 recording session in New York produced a release entitled “Jon Ballantyne 4tets+Dewey Redman”. Here, the quartet performs a program of Ballantyne originals, joined by the late great Dewey Redman on tenor and alto saxophones. The recorded result is highly spirited, cutting-edge acoustic jazz.
The Ottawa Citizen declared in a review of the Ballantyne 4tet’s performance at the Ottawa Jazz Festival in 2005 that Ballantyne is definitely onto something original and worthy of greater attention. Besides the 2005 tour of all major cities in Canada, the quartet has toured Sweden, Germany, Italy, Israel, and the Northeastern US.
With nine albums as a leader (2 Juno Awards, 3 Juno nominations), Ballantyne’s most recent releases are solo piano recordings. “Avenue Standard” (r.a.w.) is an album of mostly jazz standards; “Ever Since Now” (r.a.w.) is an album comprised of all-Ballantyne (but one) compositions.