Jon is an artist who deftly combines the unknown with the known. Listening to the wondrous sounds he makes at the piano, audiences can never be sure where he will take the music next. There can be a palpable sense that they are hearing a feeling, harmony, melody or rhythm they may be familiar with, and at the same time, they are likely to be figuratively on the edge of their seats, excited, gratified that they are being taken on a musical adventure unlike anything they may have experienced previously.
Jon comes by this strong sense of musical adventure honestly. Having been born with it is the most obvious explanation, but, for example, in performing hundreds of sets with saxophone great Joe Henderson, Jon was never a passive participant. Even when he was ‘laying out’, or ‘strolling’, Jon was observing Henderson (or Roy Haynes, who played with the band on several occasions), with a keen sense and an even quicker ear. The same applies to the time Jon spent with fellow pianist and friend Paul Bley. They played, they hung out. They recorded; they played 2 pianos in concert. Very few pianists have played and recorded duo pianos with Paul Bley, aside from Bill Evans ("Jazz in the Space Age"), as Paul pointed out to Jon before their first studio collaboration.
No matter whom Jon has played with (*see extended list below), Jon has observed, Jon has listened and learned, all the while honing his own wit and otherworldly musical skills in the company of his contemporaries and the masters he has shared the stage and recording studio with. This continues unabated today (i.e., recent performances with saxophone greats Dave Liebman, Seamus Blake, Phil Dwyer and trumpet virtuoso Ingrid Jensen), though Jon is also now enjoying mentoring and inspiring younger musicians intent on the most creative paths in music.
In the past two and a half decades, Jon has performed critically acclaimed solo piano concerts and with his stellar quartet at venues and major music festivals across Canada, Japan, the USA, The UK, Ireland, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Holland, France, Germany, Italy and Israel.
Solo concerts and club and concert performances with such notable artists as, once again, saxophonist David Liebman's quintet, with drummer Adam Nussbaum, guitarist Dave Stryker, saxophonists Adam Niewood and Roger Rosenberg, drummer Bill Goodwin, bassist Gene Perla, drummer Eliot Zigmund and trumpeters Joe Magnarelli and Thomas Goehring were the highlights of 2015/2016.
2014 saw Jon touring the Canadian jazz festival circuit, and the Northeastern US, performing solo concerts + concerts with his newly formed trio (Adam Nussbaum, drums; Evan Gregor, bass), and gigs with such jazz stalwarts as Warren Vache, Lew Tabackin, Michael Stephans, John Mosca, Bill Crow and Tony Marino.
In 2012-2013, Jon performed in concert with saxophonist David Liebman, and also for the first time played in concert with four-time Grammy award winning saxophonist Phil Woods. Jon also became a member of a sextet led by former Elvin Jones/Sonny Rollins bassist Gene Perla.
Whether he’s performing his original compositions, virtuosic two-handed spontaneous improvisations, or reworking jazz standards in his own innate, organic way, Jon Ballantyne’s openness, originality and inborn creativity always inform his music, much to the delight of his listeners.
*Jon Ballantyne’s early interest in studying and playing jazz ultimately led to performances with musicians such as Joe Henderson (Jon was a member of Joe’s quartet from 1989-92), Paul Bley, Dewey Redman, Billy Hart, Roy Haynes, Gene Perla, Pepper Adams, Drew Gress, Seamus Blake, Ingrid Jensen, Phil Dwyer, Alan Jones, George Garzone, Dave Liebman, Donny McAslin, Mark Turner, Matt Wilson, Ray Drummond, Joe LaBarbara, Herbie Lewis, Kevin Dean, Joe Lovano, Andre White, Gene Jackson, Boris Kozlov, Yannick Rieu, Kent Sangster, The Mingus Big Band and Ben Perowsky.
In his formative years, Jon played gigs with Pepper Adams, Benny Wallace, PJ Perry, Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd (with guests soloists Clark Terry, Al Cohn, Jimmy Giuffre, Buddy DeFranco, Shorty Rodgers, Red Mitchell, Terry Clarke, Richard Stolzman), Jack Sheldon, Neil Swainson and Jerry Fuller among many others.
And before that Jon studied and played with greats like Dave Holland, Lee Konitz, Cecil Taylor, Ed Blackwell, Kenny Wheeler, Ron Carter, Peter Erskine, Don Thompson, Michael Brecker, Elvin Jones, Phil Nimmons, Karl Berger, Steve Coleman, John Abercrombie, Nat Adderley, Bob Mintzer and Emily Remler. He also had several private lessons in New York with Richard Beirach, Barry Harris, Joanne Brackeen, Kenny Barron and Hal Galper.