Charlie Ballantine – Providence
Guitarist Charlie Ballantine aims to step out in a way that he never has before. Providence (2016), his second release, captures his goal by combining his jazz training with his non-jazz influences.
The core ensemble includes Josh Espinosa, organ; Conner Green, bass; and Josh Roberts, drums. Saxophonist Amanda Gardier appears on selected tracks. All are Indiana University classmates.
The scratch and pop of the needle hitting the record on an old turntable accompanies the introduction to “Old Hammer.” This track is an easygoing groove conjures the image of a country spread, where a working man isn’t laboring so much as he’s taking in the scenery around him while doing a little bit of work. He and his colleagues might break out into song to pass the time. Ballantine runs through his middle solo, mixing single notes with chords, throwing in some twang in key moments. His bandmates crank up the heat underneath. Then, just when you think the sound will draw the attention of the foreman, Espinoza hushes them. Relaxed, they continue to groove at will. But even the organist can’t contain himself. Before long, he’s just as intense as the guitarist before him. But when the boss looks over, they revert to what they were doing, working steadily while continuing to enjoy their song.