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There is one mystery I love about music – when you are performing with someone for the first time but somehow it feels as though you’ve already played together for years – this was my experience with Jeff Ballard. Maybe it was because I’ve listened to him countless times live and on recordings with artists such as Brad Meldhau, Chick Corea, Joshua Redman, Mark Turner, etc.  Or perhaps because Jeff’s immense experience and artistry makes one feel comfortable and open to anything. In any case, playing with and getting to know Jeff has been a real honor and musical gift.

The original inspiration for this piece came out of a spontaneous concert at the Blue Whale in Los Angeles in August 2014. My friend and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and I decided to put something together and when we talked drummers, he mentioned Jeff. Fortunately for us, Jeff said he would be would be on the West Coast at the time – his dedication to playing was amply demonstrated as he actually flew from Paris to SF to LA on that particular day.

That evening, Jeff brought in a tune called “Gazzelloni” from the Eric Dolphy album “Out To Lunch” – I remember that after the melody, we just played freely and it was one of the highlights of the night. Jeff is an incredibly adventurous player and loves to play free whenever possible. This piece is directly inspired by that tune and also Jeff’s spirit of open, unplanned music making. Outside of the main melody, the video performance is completely free and is the only song like this in the Seasons project.

We recorded the video at a Masonic Lodge up in Santa Cruz. I believe that its surreal interior and the Freemason artwork provided a contrast to our playing as well as inspiration. As one might imagine, it was particularly difficult to choose the winning take from this shoot as each improvisation was so different in vibe and flow, but I suppose this is always a good problem to have in the end.

For more about Jeff: