Basic Background Info

Birth: 1963
Location: Newport, California
Band: Lou Donaldson, Buddy Montgomery, Guillermo Klein's Los Guachos, Ben Allison's Medicine Wheel, Kurt Rosenwinkel Band, Diane Schuur, Danilo Perez, Chick Corea, Joshua Redman's Elastic Band, Brad Mehldau Trio
Genres: Jazz, Afro-Cuban
Instruments: Drums
Occupation: Musician



As a child, Jeff Ballard's father exposed Jeff to musicians like Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Louie Armstrong, Oscar Peterson, Sergio Mendez, and Milton Nascimento. The powerful music affected Jeff Ballard, as he recalled, "'I remember feeling the power of a Basie big band shout chorus which would then suddenly disappear into some quiet dancing riff. It was the swing in it, which excited me the most. I also remember how it felt traveling thru sounds of the jungle in a Milton Nascimento record. The drums, percussion, and voice, would sound as if they either came from the earth or were made of water. And I was so happy to hear the joy of Ella and Louie singing and playing together. I think that that early exposure has made me part of what I am today, especially in regards to my love for sound."

Jeff Ballard's parents supported his drumming aspirations and got him a drum kit when he was a teenager after warning him about the obligations of practice. During high school, Jeff Ballard took private drum lessons. When the time constraints dictated that he choose between the drums and baseball, Jeff Ballard chose the drums. Jeff Ballard joined several bands, including the orchestra and jazz band at school and an outside big band. Jeff Ballard studied music at Cabrillo College while still in high school and, after graduating, studied music theory full-time at Cabrillo. During this time, he also toured with a Latin afro-Cuban jazz band and toured throughout California.

After briefly living in San Francisco, Jeff Ballard auditioned to accompany musical genius Ray Charles. His abilities to read music and groove helped him nail the audition and he spent the next three years touring with Charles. Following his stint with Charles, Jeff Ballard relocated to New York City, where he quickly found common ground with traditionally inspired musician, such as Kurt Rosenwinkel, Mark Turner, Brad Mehldau, Avishai Cohen, Guillermo Klein, Larry Grenadier, and Ben Allison, who sought their own identity through musical interpretation.

Jeff Ballard has also performed with Bobby Hutcherson, Buddy Montgomery, Eddie Harris, Mike Stern, Lou Donaldson, and Danilo Perez. Since 1999, Ballard has been occasionally performing with Chick Corea. Jeff Ballard is currently a member of the Brad Mehldau Trio, Joshua Redmanís Elastic Band, and co-leader of Fly, a trio with Mark Turner and Larry Grenadier.


Album Year Album Name Album Band
1988 FF&C 3 Full Faith & Credit Big Band
1995 Love Is Proximity The Herbie Nichols Project
1996 Kolomeyka Fantasy John Stetch
1996 Peoples Blue Hafez Modirzadeh
1996 Stetching Out John Stetch
1997 Warner Bros. Jazz Christmas Party Various Artists
1998 Adama Avishai Cohen
1998 Central Avenue Danilo Perez
1998 Chant Frank Kimbrough
1998 Goat Hill Junket Anthony Wilson
1998 Medicine Wheel Ben Allison
1999 Abolish Bad Architecture Reid Anderson
1999 Change Chick Corea & Origin
1999 Crazy Bird Adam Kolker Quintet
1999 Guachos, Vol. 2 Guillermo Klein
1999 Third Eye Ben Allison & Medicine Wheel
1999 Work in Progress 89-98 Wolfgang Muthspiel
2000 Allegresse Maria Schneider Orchestra
2000 Birdland Sessions Magali Souriau Orchestra
2000 Colors Avishai Cohen
2000 Corea Concerto Chick Corea/London Philharmonic Orchestra
2000 Enemies Of Energy Kurt Rosenwinkel
2000 Heavens of a Hundred Days John Stetch
2000 Jam Miami: A Celebration of Latin Jazz Various Artists
2000 Originations Various Artists
2000 Portrait in Sound Steve Davis
2000 Premonition Jason Lindner
2000 Wind from the South Claudia AcuÒa
2001 Next Step Kurt Rosenwinkel
2001 Palmetto Records 2001 Various Artists
2001 Past, Present & Futures Chick Corea New Trio
2001 Riding the Nuclear Tiger Ben Allison
2001 Sidewalk Meeting Ted Nash
2001 Willow Frank Kimbrough/Joe Locke
2002 Home Cookin' Jay Klum
2002 Los Guachos III Guillermo Klein
2002 Unquiet Matt Penman
2003 Concord Records 30th Anniversary Various Artists
2003 Heartcore Kurt Rosenwinkel
2003 Playful Intentions Phil Grenadier
2003 Quickening Frank Kimbrough Trio
2003 Rendezvous in New York Chick Corea
2003 Third Eye Phil Stˆckli Quintet
2003 Trumpet Player Avishai Cohen
2003 Front Porch Alex Wise
2004 Concert in the Garden Maria Schneider
2004 Fly Fly
2004 Words and Music David White Trio
2005 At Home Avishai Cohen
2005 Day Is Done Brad Mehldau Trio
2005 Deep Song Kurt Rosenwinkel
2005 Live in Barcelona Guillermo y los Guachos Klein
2005 Momentum Joshua Redman Elastic Band
2005 Place and Time Anat Cohen
2005 Right Before Your Very Ears Michael Blake Trio
2005 Rolling Stones Project Tim Ries
2005 Take Five Super Trombone
2005 Telling Tales Roz Corral
2006 Cowboy Justice Ben Allison
2006 Metheny Mehldau Pat Metheny/Brad Mehldau
2006 New York Sessions Javier Girotto
2006 Rendezvous In New York Chick Corea & Origin/Gary Burton
2006 Something Familiar Julie Christensen
2006 When Einstein Dreams Nando Michelin
2007 Best of Best 2001-2005 Super Trombone
2007 CAM JAZZ Collection: Catalog 2007 Various Artists
2007 Quartet Metheny Mehldau Quartet
2007 Best of the Monterey Jazz Festival, Vol. 1 Various Artists
2008 Live Brad Mehldau Trio
2008 Persona Massimo Biolcati


  • "Hearing Tony Williams play with Miles completely changed the way I played drums. Hearing John Coltrane and Elvin Jones, and listening to Ornette Coleman’s music changed my whole world. It was like coming home."
  • "Although we often played the same songs and arrangements every night, Ray [Charles] was always able to make us feel as if it was for the very first time. The drum chair was the best seat in the house really. I only had to watch Ray’s feet to know where and what he wanted the groove to be. What a great school."

Instruments of Choice



Drums: Yamaha
Cymbals: Zildjian
Hardware: Yamaha

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