Biography

ECM recording artist Iain Ballamy is an internationally recognised saxophonist and composer who has been variously described as urbane, original, freethinking and uncompromising.

Listed in the BBC’s publication ‘100 Jazz Greats’ between Count Basie and Chet Baker, Ballamy’s work is contemporary with both strong jazz and classical references and yet un-encumbered by formality and tradition.

Over three decades spent transcending musical genres and stereotypes and by forging strong and ongoing relationships with musicians around the globe, Ballamy has worked with many cutting-edge figures of today’s contemporary Jazz scene.

Ballamy was presented with the BBC Jazz Award for Innovation in 2001.

‘Food’ a group co-formed with drummer, composer and electronics wizard Thomas Strønen, celebrates its third release for ECM records ‘This is not a Miracle’ featuring Christian Fennesz on Guitar in 2015. Previous guests with Food include trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer, and guitarists Eivind Aarset and Prakash Sontakke.

Ballamy leads his quartet ‘Anorak’ and septet ‘Anorak XL’ both featuring pianist Gareth Williams.

He continues to tour and record with the virtuoso Norwegian button accordionist Stian Carstensen as a duo known as ‘The Little Radio’.

A recent combined commission for Manchester Jazz and Literary Festivals featured a multi media production with Irish poet Matthew Sweeney and ‘The Pepper Street Orchestra’.

The award winning trio ‘Quercus’ featuring legendary folk singer June Tabor with Iain Ballamy and pianist Huw Warren will release their second album for ECM in spring 2017.

As a composer, Ballamy has written soundtracks for two movies directed by Dave McKean, ‘Luna’ and ‘Mirrormask’, the later produced and released worldwide by the Jim Henson Company.

In 2007 Ballamy was the first Jazz musician to receive the prestigious Paul Hamlyn composer’s award.

As a soloist Ballamy performed ‘Concerto for Stan Getz’ by Richard Rodney Bennett with the BBC Concert Orchestra and premiered Gary Carpenter’s saxophone concerto ‘SET’ live on Radio 3 with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra in 2014.

Commissioned works for the London Sinfonietta, Apollo Saxophone Quartet and Joanna Macgregor compliment Ballamy's diverse catalogue of works.

Ballamy has appeared in clubs worldwide and at most important Jazz festivals including Berlin, North Sea, Saarfelden, Montreux, Montreal, Vancouver, and Florence etc

Ballamy has appeared on 70 CD releases as both a leader and sideman.

Highlights of a career spanning over 30 years include playing with Loose Tubes, Bill Bruford’s Earthworks, Hermeto Pascoal, Django Bates, Kenny Werner, Gil Evans, George Coleman, The Karnataka College of Percussion, John Taylor, Ian Shaw, Claire Martin, The Britten Sinfonia, Gay Dad, Everything but the Girl, Guy Chambers, Mike Gibbs, Carla Bley, John Dankworth etc.

In demand as an educator, Ballamy is a visiting professor at Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Leeds College of Music, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and The Royal Academy of Music who made him and Hon ARAM in 2014.

Photo: Dave McKean

Photo: Dave McKean

Ballamy’s is a melodic thoughtful style, born out in beautiful original tunes.
— Linton Chiswick, Time Out
Intensly melodic, eventful and full of surprises... The beauty of tone that Iain Ballamy gets is certainly one of the joys of the current scene, and his concern with creating it echoes Stan Getz’s.
— Andy Hamilton, Jazz on CD
Technically flawless performances.
— Barry Withendon, The Wire
A major international voice.
— Chris Parker, The Times
Ballamy does indeed have a unique sound that owes little to the usual sax masters.
— Simon Adams, Jazz Journal
Ballamy’s melodies may one day be seen as legendary, as they are inspired and searching, with an amazing care for detail... A disc by which others will be judged.
— Philippe Renaud, Improjazz
Iain Ballamy emerged from the Loose Tubes stable with an entirely unfashionable saxophone sound (he didn’t sound like John Coltrane) based on scurrying, low-register, clarinet-like figures, a delicate tone and an urgent, but sparingly used upper register wail. He doesn’t sound like anyone else on the British scene.
— John Fordham, The Guardian