Press and Radio
“Calling Don Byron a jazz musician is like calling the Pacific wet – it just doesn’t begin to describe it... Byron has carpentered an extraordinary career precisely by obliterating the very idea of category.”
“...showing us new ways of thinking and feeling about familiar experiences is one of the tasks of the true artist and is something Byron revels in.” –The Times, London
A brilliant clarinetist, Byron explores the nuances of Latin and Carribean styles through tunes that unfold with surgical precision. The emotional flavors of salsero Eddie Palmieri, merengue singer Juan Luis Guerra, and calypso star Mighty Sparrow waft through these hothouse arrangements
Among the many great things about Don Byron is the way he collapses the distinctions between high art and low, between generic formulas and avant attitude. Six years ago, his Music for Six Musicians (Nonesuch) was a dark and explicitly political work, pretty much in line with expectations for an intellectually oriented composer and grant winner. Now Byron's returned with a non sequitur follow-up that goes to the once-hip, now-fading Latin jazz quarter, and brings to it so much new energy and fresh joy that he ends up reviving the genre and creating one of his most exhilarating albums. You Are #6 manages to fall right in the sweet spot between Afro-Caribbean tradition (as wonderfully upheld by conguero veteran Milton Cardona) and harmonically impetuous jazz (as beautifully led by Byron and his restless pianist, Edsel Gomez). The two longest tracks, "A Whisper in My Ear (for Mario Bauza)" and "Dark Room," are each as exciting a piece of Latin groove as you're likely to hear. Other tracks move into more of a samba vein, while "Shake 'em Up" is a straight-up insouciant calypso cover (some long-forgotten radio hit) that turns into a great exchange of choruses by the horns. Is it ironic? Is it serious? With Byron, the categories don't apply.
Byrons clarinet is at once ancient and modern... His circuitous, unxexpectedly jumping lines are stamped with his harmonic knowledge and melodic invention, informed by Bach and Schoenberg, Armstrong and Trane. And his rhythmic sense is sharp: He can make any two notes dance...As a composer, Byron is eclectic, thoughful and provocative, usually with a political or social agenda. (You Are #6 is) an album that is wide-ranging, effective and shot through with knowing, releasing humor. Its one of the best albums Ive heard this year.
Gene Santoro, The Nation
The existential Dred returns with a brilliant second installment of what could loosely be termed his Latin project. Master percussionist Milton Cardona and stellar pianist Edsel Gomez are on hand to deliver plenty of the heat and sensuality of the Caribbean yet Byrons ability to amalgamate the European classical nuance and African-American funky attitude is such that this album feels like a much richer offering than most would expect Tropicalia to be... This glowingly beautiful album simply stretches the eclectic elastic further.
Clarinetist and composer Byron has a knack for addressing varied genres in both celebratory and extended ways. Whether dealing with klezmer, cartoon music, arias, or, on this album, percussion-fortified Latin music, he is full of brainy delights. As expected, the path is winding, framed by a hip read on Mancinis Theme from Hatari and DJ Spookys remix of Byrons swaggering Belmondos Lip.
You want to know where jazz is headed, check out Don Byron
(He) succeeds not only because hes an intelligent and insightful composer, but also because his band is emotionally in tune.
CMJ New Music Report
One of the few constants in the ever-evolving world of the eclectic clarinetist Don Byron is his pioneering group, Music for Six Musicians. Since the mid-'90s they have navigated the musical waters of New York and Latin America with ease...Don Byron's stateside take on the Latin tinge reveals one more layer to his magnificent and multifaceted musical outlook.
...thoughtful, witty, varied, inventive, succinct and fun modern musicwhat else do you need to know?
everything here is intellectually satisfying and emotionally stirring
Calling Don Byron a jazz musician is like calling the Pacific wetit just doesnt begin to describe it... Byron has carpentered an extraordinary career precisely by obliterating the very idea of category.
Don Byron already has gone a long way toward achieving several remarkable tasks. Hes the most visible among the scant handful of musicians resurrecting the long-neglected clarinet as a lead jazz instrument. He has rendered racial and ethnic stereotypes irrelevant as an African-American and virtuoso klezmer player. And with his latest, deceptively dry-titled album, he has solidified his reputation as a formidable composer, one capable of reconciling jazzs conservative and avant-garde factions
Byronss stuff is sharp and intellectual, yet the fiery rhythms and maniacal blowing also make it irresistible on a visceral level. This is the kind of music that validates the past while establishing new frontiers, and should place Byron among jazzs most significant innovators.
City Pages, Minneapolis, 1995
NPR "All Things Considered" aired a feature interview segment with Don on Friday, December 10, 2004 (12/10). The broadcast can be listened to at http://www.npr.org/programs/atc/
A February 21 Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross is available here.
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BIO in Microsoft Word format
PHOTOS Black & white and color print quality
KEY PRESS A bibliography, links to source, some reprints in their entirety