Don Byron — clarinet, tenor saxophone, background vocal
From the start of his career as a bandleader in the early 1990s, Don Byron has reveled in interpreting music of a wildly diverse range of styles and artists, including Duke Ellington, Igor Stravinsky, Mickey Katz, Raymond Scott, John Kirby, Sly Stone, Henry Mancini, Sugar Hill Records’ early hip-hop, Earth Wind & Fire, Herb Alpert, and most recently, R&B icon Junior Walker.
Don Byron’s newest project grows out of his in-depth studies of gospel music. Gospel pioneer Thomas A. Dorsey is a major inspiration, and Byron revisits some of the master songwriter’s works alongside other classics as well as lesser-known gems of the genre.
“In the past few years I have listened more intensively to black religious music than ever before. Examining the specific blues styles peculiar to country, R&B, and rock led me to thorough studies of the blues based religious music of White and Black Southern Gospel. I am combining my own compositions with traditional Gospel pieces in a way I have not attempted before. This project coincides with a growth in my own faith and is for me a religious expression.” –Don Byron.
The Don Byron New Gospel Quintet was launched in the spring of 2009 and had its New York premiere during a four-night run at the Jazz Standard. The band went on to tour Europe for three weeks and was received enthusiastically by audiences and critics alike. The quintet's performance at England's Cheltenham Festival was broadcast on BBC3 radio and described by critic Kevin Le Gendre in glowing terms:
"Fantastic gig! Anytime [Byron] does a new project he always explores the subject very deeply. He's not just a jazz musician doing gospel - he is somebody who is really engaging with the subject matter as well, trying to absorb what's in those lyrics by Thomas A. Dorsey, these very moving songs about his relationship with God and just human relationships as well and that really comes across in the gig. It is a very moving experience listening to it."
Don Byron Plays the Music of Mickey Katz (one-sheet pdf click here)
Don Byron and his musicians are available for residencies, clinics, workshops, and master classes.