Ronnie Ball

All About Ronnie

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Not exactly a household name, Ronnie Ball is probably best known for his charts on the Warne Marsh LP Jazz of Two Cities (available on the Capitol Jazz Tristano/Marsh two-fer, Intuition). While "Ear Conditioning" could be considered an underground classic and perhaps his vision at its most fully realized peak, this underappreciated session from earlier in 1956 is very enjoyable in its own right. Like Jazz of Two Cities, Ball is joined by tenor saxophonist Ted Brown. Otherwise the cast includes Willie Dennis on trombone, Wendell Marshall on bass, and the versatile Kenny Clarke on drums. Listeners familiar with better-known sessions from the Tristano school probably know what to expect on this date. Many of the tunes, especially the two Ball originals, feature rapid-fire heads that, like "Ear Conditioning," don't resolve themselves for several bars at a time, making them rather like transcribed Charlie Parker solos that have been appropriated into altogether new themes. Particularly of interest is Ball's decision to employ the exact same dissonant three-against-four bridge before returning to the respective heads of both the first and second tunes on the record, prompting one to question whether or not the first song is simply repeated. While on the surface this music might seem (and probably is) like overly academic bebop, it doesn't pretend to be anything else and should be accepted for what it is: a style that is as seemingly light and carefree as it is harmonically dense and aesthetically probing.

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