Brad Mehldau trio drummer Jeff Ballard has signed to Edition records, the label has announced. Fairgrounds will follow in late-January.

Back in 2015 the Fairgrounds band was announced for a gig in Dublin although little has been heard of it since – that is until now. At the time they were no strangers to Ireland as a couple of years previously they had appeared in the Pavilion theatre, Dun Laoghaire. Ian Patterson reviewing for allaboutjazz that time detailed the line-up, only their fifth gig of all he reported, as including Tigran Hamasyan. By 2015 Tigran was replaced by pianist Kevin Hays. 

Time has not stood still. Ballard is a busy presence on the international scene and for many years has been best known for his long time membership of Brad Mehldau’s trio appearing on such albums as Where Do You StartOdeHighway RiderBrad Mehldau Trio Live and Day is Done as well as his tenure in the co-operative ECM-signed band Fly with Mark Turner and Larry Grenadier.

Highly influential on drummers particularly for his mastery of the ride cymbal including such players as James Maddren in England and a new generation of teenage players coming through such as Luke Beirne in Ireland – Ballard having signed in 2014 under his own name to Sony’s jazz label OKeh the Californian released Time’s Tales joined on the album by Beninese jazz guitar star Lionel Loueke and Puerto Rican saxophone icon Miguel Zenón. Time’s Tales featured material as contrasting as an adaptation of Bartók and a take on the Queens of the Stone Age’s ‘Hangin’ Tree.’  

On Fairgrounds among the personnel Ballard is joined once more by Loueke, who has long since become a member of Herbie Hancock’s band and recorded some acclaimed records as a leader under his own name. Also there is bassist Reid Anderson of The Bad Plus (in his Fairgrounds guise as an electronicist) and by the aforementioned pianist Kevin Hays, other personnel including another pianist, Pete Rende, saxophonist Chris Cheek, and from Fly, Mark Turner.

“I’m excited,” a grateful Ballard is quoted by the label “not just about this new record release and reaching out and connecting to more people through a variety of new (for me) ways but I am just as excited – if not more so – about what’s coming next. Thanks Edition.” SG
Jeff Ballard, top

The label has also recently signed guitarist Ant Law.