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Ballantyne started playing piano at an early age and began formal study at the age of six. His father Fred is a pianist and both parents are jazz enthusiasts and exposed him to Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans and Duke Ellington. His mother took him to an Oscar Peterson concert when he was five-years-old.
He studied piano and played in a garage-band when he was a teenager. He attended North Texas State University, where he played with visiting musicians such as Nat Adderley, Michael Brecker, Ron Carter, Peter Erskine, Joe Henderson, Elvin Jones, Bob Mintzer, and Emily Remler. At the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada, he worked played with John Abercrombie, Karl Berger, Ed Blackwell, Steve Coleman, Dave Holland, Lee Konitz, Dave Liebman, Eddie Marshall, Julian Priester, Cecil Taylor, Don Thompson, and Kenny Wheeler. In New York City, he studied with Kenny Barron, Richie Beirach, Joanne Brackeen, Hal Galper, and Barry Harris.
He has performed with or recorded with Pepper Adams, Krister Andersson, Reid Anderson, Ed Bickert, Paul Bley, Don Braden, Terry Clarke, Avishai Cohen, Al Cohn, Scott Colley, Buddy DeFranco, Ray Drummond, Phil Dwyer, Charles Fambrough, Jerry Fuller, George Garzone, Mick Goodrick, Jimmy Giuffre, Bill Goodwin, Drew Gress, Al Grey, Craig Handy, Billy Hart, Roy Haynes, Joe Henderson, Joe LaBarbera, Joe Lovano, Mingus Big Band, Red Mitchell, Gene Perla, Ben Perowsky, P. J. Perry, Rich Perry, Dewey Redman, Shorty Rogers, Jim Rotondi, Richard Stoltzman, Ben Street, Neil Swainson, Clark Terry, and Phil Woods.
As a six-year resident of Park Slope, Brooklyn in the 1990s, he played afternoon jam sessions in his studio apartment with young musicians, most of them neighbors, such as Seamus Blake, Bill Carrothers, Phil Haynes, Donny McCaslin, Dave Pietro, Jay Rosen, Tony Scherr, Mark Turner, and Matt Wilson.
He has conducted educational clinics at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and at the University of Colorado Boulder, University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, McGill University, University of Toronto, and Concordia University.
He leads a quartet with bassist Boris Kozlov, drummer Jeff Hirshfield, and saxophonist/bass clarinetist Douglas Yates.
Awards and honors
He received Juno Awards for the albums Sky Dance and Avenue Standard.
He and fellow Canadian musician Hugh Sicotte released an experimental album (delving into Hugh's real-time laptop-programs manipulations of Jon's playing of acoustic, electric and prepared piano) in 2012 called Twenty Accident Free Workdays, which was nominated for a 2013 Juno Award.
An asterisk (*) indicates that the year is that of release.
|1987*||Trio Jon Ballantyne||Jazzimage|
|1988||Sky Dance||Justin Time||Quartet, with Joe Henderson (tenor sax), Neil Swainson (bass), Jerry Fuller (drums)|
|1991||A Musing||Justin Time||Some tracks solo piano; most tracks duo, with Paul Bley (piano); some tracks duo with Dave Laing (drums)|
|1994||The Loose||Justin Time||Trio, with Drew Gress (bass), Billy Hart (drums)|
|1995||Trio Live||NY Jam||Trio, with Drew Gress (bass), Billy Hart (drums)|
|1997||Known/Unknown||NY Jam||Trio, with Drew Gress (bass), Gene Jackson (drums)|
|2000*||Round Again||NY Jam|
|2000||4tets + Dewey Redman||Real Artist Works||With Douglas Yates, Jeff Hirshfield, Gene Jackson, Boris Kozlov; Dewey Redman (sax) added on some tracks|
|2006*||Avenue Standard||Real Artist Works|
|2006*||Ever Since Now||Real Artist Works|
|2012*||Twenty Accident Free Workdays||Real Artist Works||With Hugh Sicotte|
- In the Key of Eh! Canadian Jazz Piano (1996)
- DUOS: The Jazz Sessions (1999)
- SOLOS: The Jazz Sessions (Bravo! Canada, 2006)