Jeff Ball

Return to Balance

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It may serve as a soundtrack to the film of the same name, but Jeff Ball's Return to Balance is also a wonderful introduction to the man's enchanting music. Playing the Native American flute but not a Native American, Ball weaves in the sounds of acoustic rock, contemporary instrumental, and jammy music that at times brings to mind a rustic Pink Floyd or pianist Bill Evans hanging with Phish. This is easy and calm, wide-open-skies music, but Ball never gets too precious or sweet, even when he's at his warmest. Occasionally he plays in a traditional style and he does show reverence for the instrument, but he also attacks the music with a pop and jazz mentality, pushing some staccato notes out with extra emotion and allowing notes in the lower register some warble and rumble. "Flight of the Blue Raven" is one part R. Carlos Nakai, one part Dark Side of the Moon, while the more subdued "Cedar Moon" could blend into a smooth jazz set nicely. Production and atmosphere play a large role, but there's some naked numbers that rely primarily on Ball's emotive playing. Well sequenced, the album works just fine on its own, but it's hard to imagine not venturing further into his catalog after being seduced by the rich Return to Balance.

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