As a child, Jeff Ballard was awed by the music of Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson and Milton Nascimento. While at Cabrillo Community College, in Santa Cruz, he studied music theory and began performing with a number of groups. At 25, the drummer joined Ray Charles' group, spending three years with the band. In 1990, Ballard settled in New York City, where he discovered several of musicians with whom he had a lot in common, in particular Brad Mehldau, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Mark Turner. Along with Turner and Larry Grenadier, he created the trio Fly. Much in demand as an accompanist, over the years this Californian native collaborated with a slew of great artists, including Chick Corea, Bobby Hutcherson and Mike Stern.