Keith Balla

  • Keith Balla
  • Instruments: Drums

  • Biography:

    A native of Austin, Texas, drummer Keith Balla was first compelled to pick up the sticks at the age of 13, inspired by his older brother--also a musician. Soon after, Balla had the good fortune of meeting jazz pianist Marc Devine who encouraged the young drummer, provided him with a wealth of invaluable playing experience, and exposed him to many of the drummers which continue to hold him in captivation: Philly Joe Jones, Max Roach, Kenny Clarke, Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, Papa Jo Jones, and Big Sid Catlett.

    After moving to New York at 17, Balla sought the tutelage of the great drummer/educators Kenny Washington and John Riley, and found equal inspiration in the performances of Fukushi Tainaka, Jimmy Wormworth, and Leroy Williams.  He quickly found himself immersed in the fertile jazz community of Smalls Jazz Club, acquainting himself with, amongst others: Ari Roland, Sacha Perry, Chris Byars, Zaid Nasser, John Mosca, William Ash, Vahagn Hayrapetian, Yaala Ballin, Josh Benko, Dwayne Clemons, Alex Hoffman, and William and Peter Anderson.

    In addition to performing at many of New York's finest jazz venues such as Smoke, Zinc Bar, Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, and Birdland, Balla has travelled worldwide as a member of the Ari Roland Quartet. Since 2008, working under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State, the group has performed in over 30 countries throughout Africa, Europe, East and Central Asia, and the Middle East. Balla has also conducted a number of intensive drum workshops in Cyprus, where the Ari Roland/Chris Byars group runs a bi-communal jazz educational program multiple times each year.

    Most recently, Balla completed a tour of France and Italy and recorded an upcoming CD with the Luigi Grasso Quartet.