November 07, 2023

Dan Balmer Releases “When the Night”

On November 10th, 2023, Lewis & Clark College luminary Dan Balmer released his twelfth album “When the Night” on PJCE Records. The release was celebrated with a live performance at Lewis & Clark College’s Evans Auditorium. To start the show, Balmer performed his original compositions from the album with Clay Giberson on piano, Bill Athens on bass, and Jason Palmer on drums. The second half of the concert featured new arrangements of Balmer’s compositions performed by the 12-member Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble. 

Dan has been a fixture of the Lewis & Clark College music department since 1976. He started teaching jazz guitar in 1981, but his family’s connection with Lewis & Clark goes back to the 1950s when his father, Don Balmer, was the head of the political science department. Dan’s mother, Betty, was a beloved piano teacher. In addition to teaching private guitar lessons, Dan has been leading the Jazz Combos for about twenty years. Read on for a brief interview with Dan about his new album!

What were your inspirations for this album?

I’m always trying to write music because it’s the most personal thing I can do. I play guitar all the time and I play in all different styles, and people like that, but the thing that I think is most important is my music, but there’s not really any demand for [it.] Breaking even on a record is almost impossible, for anybody, because the industry is so shifted. So you have to create all the energy yourself and just do it. There’s a famous book called On the Beach that’s about a couple in Australia and the nuclear holocaust is coming and the world is dead, a nuclear cloud is coming down to Australia and they’re going to die soon from radiation poisoning. They still plant a garden. That’s what a record is. It’s planting a garden in the midst of the radiation. I’m doing this because it matters and if I don’t do it, then what am I doing? I want the record to be an inspiration to my students and my children to never give up.

Can you explain the title, “When the Night”?

Anybody who listens to the title song will hopefully figure that out.

What’s your writing process?

Just always trying. I sit there in the dark at night and try. You know, you come up with chords and a melody [and then] try and find something that’s new and different.

What advice would you give to an aspiring jazz musician?

Never surrender. Get out there and play and connect and work. Find your voice but be versatile.

What do you most like about teaching at Lewis & Clark?

The people. The kids.

Dan’s Bio

From chart-topping success with the Tom Grant Band in the 90s, to world tours with two-time Grammy Award winner Diane Schuur and contemporary jam bands, Dan Balmer brings fire and heart every time he plays the guitar. His playing spans nearly one hundred CDs including twelve as a leader, from which his original works have appeared internationally in television, film, and radio. Dan has performed or toured with Joey DeFrancesco, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Les McCann, Javon Jackson and Karrin Allyson, Benny Golson, Jeff Hamilton, Gerald Clayton, John Clayton, Terell Stafford, Ingrid Jensen, Duduka da Fonseca, Kendrick Scott, Taylor Eigsti, Buddy De Franco, Bruce Forman and countless others. An in-demand educator, Dan maintains a private studio and teaches group clinics and master classes throughout the US and abroad. He adjudicates student jazz band competitions at events such as the Monterey Next Generation Festival and Reno Jazz Festival along with being a long-term teacher at the Centrum Jazz Workshop. He is the director of jazz combos at Lewis & Clark College and on faculty at several other institutions in the greater Portland, Oregon area.

Read the interview between Dan Balmer and Jazz Guitar Today here!