Indiana Guitarist Charlie Ballantine Reaches a State of Divine 'Providence' [REVIEW]

By Mike Greenblatt | May 09, 2016 01:24 PM EDT
The influences of Charlie Ballantine range far and wide. (Photo : courtesy of the artist)

Indiana guitarist/composer Charlie Ballantine, 26, is one of those new breed of guitarists unafraid of incorporating non-jazz into his jazz. So like two of his biggest influences, Bill Frisell and John Scofield, he's widened his palette to include rock, tango, funk, atmospheric instrumental pop and blues. He's not as static as those two aforementioned guitar heroes. He's alternately playful and intense on his self-released Providence, the follow-up to his Green debut last year.

Constantly gigging at the Indianapolis Jazz Kitchen with his quintet of alto saxophonist Amanda Gardier, organist Josh Espinoza, bassist Conner Green and drummer Josh Roberts, Ballantine's guitar--often laced with a fine gauze of fuzz--has meshed and intertwined almost telepathically with his mates on Providence. He's also incorporated a little of that Nashville skyline of Chet Atkins crossed with that old Kentucky colonel Merle Travis. But it's Wes Montgomery whom he mostly emulates. And when you're 26, emulation is the sincerest way to find your own style.

Ballantine is smart enough to pick the kind of material that will most successfully accent his strengths. Thus, when he wraps his fingers around his fretboard on such seemingly diametrically opposed tunes as "Temptation" by Tom Waits, "Gentle Lena Clare" by Stephen Foster [1826-1864] and "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen, somewhat of a symmetry is created by his doodling over his band's abject tightness.

Coming out of Indiana University as they all did, these five, as mentioned, are so attuned to each other's individualistic tics, breaths, stops, rests, syncopated surprises and rapid flurries, that they adapt to the situation on the fly to make the mix a five-limbed living organism. Ultimately, it's refreshing and satisfying, providing the type of non-stop action that only makes you want to repeat the experience...over and over again.


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