Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Byron, Don

Byron, Don, clarinet, composer, arranger, saxophones; b. Nov. 8, 1958, in the Bronx, New York City . His father was a mailman, mother worked for  the phone company; they exposed him to all kinds  of music. Byron's mother played piano and his West Indian father played bass in a calypso group. Classically trained, and for a while specializing in alto saxophone, he also played Latin music and jazz. He studied classical clarinet with Joe Allard while playing and arranging salsa numbers for high school bands on the side. His teacher in high school had played under Stokowski.

He studied with George Russell in the Third Stream Department of the New England Conservatory of Music and, while in Boston, also performed with Latin and jazz ensembles. He played Scott Joplin in the student group directed by Gunther Schuller, played  in the Duke Ellington band under Mercer Ellington, and joined the student Klezmer Conservatory Band directed by Hankus Netsky '80--86 --he was the first black artist to be featured in such a group.

Eric Dolphy was an early influence on alto; he said that his three biggest clarinet influences were Jimmy Hamilton, Tony Scott and Artie Shaw.

He formed a Mickey Katz-inspired klezmer group '90,  and toured with Katz's son, actor Joel Grey. (Katz, who died in 1985, was a  clarinettist and former arranger for Spike Jones who played  musical parodies full of Yiddish jokes.) Late-'80s and early-'90s collaborators include  Hamiet Bluiett, Anthony Braxton, Steve Coleman, Marc Ribot, David Murray, Craig Harris. and Bill  Frisell. He gigged with guitarist Vernon Reid in London '96. He has also worked with Cassandra Wilson, Anthony Braxton, Geri Allen, Bobby Previte, Gerry Hemingway, Mandy Patinkin, Steve Lacy, Medeski Martin & Wood, Angelique Kidjo, Carole King, Daniel Barenboim, Salif Keita, and many others.

He has been consistently voted best clarinetist by critics and readers alike in leading international music journals since being named "Jazz Artist of the Year" by Down Beat in 1992. Byron has presented a multitude of projects  at major music festivals around the world, including Vienna, San Francisco, Hong Kong, London, New York, and Monterey.
For four seasons, he served as artistic director of jazz at the Brooklyn Academy of Music where he curated a concert series for the Next Wave Festival and premiered his children's show, Bug Music for Juniors (formerly Tunes and 'Toons). Other special projects include arrangements of Stephen Sondheim's Broadway musicals; There Goes the Neighborhood, a piece commissioned and performed by the Kronos Quartet; and original scores for the silent film Scar of Shame and for a 1961 comedic television episode by Ernie Kovacs. He wrote and performed music for the Bebe Miller Dance Company and has done film scores. Composing commissions include Spin, a piece for violin and piano premiered at the Library of Congress; and Red, a big band suite premiered at the Monterey Jazz Festival in September 2002.

Since 2000, Don Byron has been Artist-in-Residence at New York's Symphony Space.  Contrasting Brilliance: The Music of Henry Mancini and Sly Stone (November 2000) was followed by Sugar Hill Revisited, a tribute to the music of the pioneering hip-hop label, which established his Symphony Space Adventurers Orchestra. The second installment of Contrasting Brilliance, in November 2002, was dedicated to the music of two more of his favorite composers: Igor Stravinsky and Raymond Scott. Today, Don Byron's working ensembles include Music for Six Musicians, Bug Music/Bug Music for Juniors, the Don Byron Quintet, and the Don Byron Medium Band featuring Abdoulaye Diabate.  He has also touerd with The Symphony Space Adventurers Orchestra to festivals in the US and Europe beginning in 2003. His Ivey-Divey Trio with Jason Moran and Jack DeJohnette began touring in 2004.


As leader:
Ivery-Divey (2004)
You Are #6: More Music for Six Musicians (Blue Note, 2001)
A Fine Line: Arias and Lieder (Blue Note, 2000)
Romance With The Unseen (Blue Note, 1999)
Nu Blaxploitation (Blue Note, 1998)
Bug Music (Nonesuch, 1996)  
No-Vibe Zone (Knitting Factory Works, 1996) 
Music for Six Musicians (Nonesuch, 1995)
Don Byron  Plays the Music of Mickey Katz (Nonesuch, 1993)
Tuskegee Experiments (Nonesuch, 1992)

With others:
Joe Henry: Tiny Voices (2003)
Ralph Alessi: This Against That (RKM Music, 2002)
Daniel Barenboim and Guests: A Tribute To Ellington (Teldec, 1999)
Hamiet Bluiett: The Clarinet Family (Black Saint, 1987)    
Anthony Braxton: 4 (Ensemble) Compositions 1992 (Black Saint, 1992)
Uri Caine: The Sidewalks of New York (Winter & Winter, 1999)
Uri Caine/Gustav Mahler: Primal Light/Urlicht  (Winter & Winter, 1997) 
Uri Caine: Toys (JMT, 1995)
Uri Caine: Sphere Music (JMT, 1992)  
Steve Coleman: Drop Kick (BMG/Novus, 1992)  
Marilyn Crispell:  Live in San Francisco (Music&Arts, 1995)  
Marilyn Crispell: Stellar Pulsations (Leo, 1994)    
Chris Dowd: Puzzle (Profile, 1996)
Douglas Ewart  & Inventions Clarinet Choir: Angles of Entrance (Aarawak, 1996)
Bill Frisell: The Sweetest Punch/The Music of Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach  (Decca, 1999)
Bill Frisell: Have A Little Faith (Elektra Nonesuch, 1993)  
Bill Frisell: This Land (Nonesuch, 1994)  
Geduldig un Thimann: A Haymish Groove (Extraplatte, 1992)  
Edsel Gomez: Cubist Music (produced by DB, label tba, 2002)
Craig Harris: Blackout In the Square Root of Soul (JMT, 1988)  
Craig Harris: Shelter (JMT, 1987)  
Jerome Harris: Hidden In Plain View  (New World/Countercurrents, 1995)
Gerry Hemingway: Special Detail (hatArt, 1992)
D.D. Jackson: Paired Down, Vol. 2 (Just In Time, 1998)
Leroy Jenkins: Themes & Improvisations on the Blues (CRI, 1994)
Hoppy Kamiyama: Welcome to Forbidden Paradise (Toshiba-EMI, 1992)    
Kansas City Band: Kansas City Soundtrack  (Verve, 1996)
Kansas City Band: K.C. After Dark (Verve, 1997)
Klezmer Conservatory Band: A Jumpin' Night In The Garden of Eden (Rounder, 1988)  
Klezmer Conservatory Band: Oy Channukah! (Rounder, 1987)  
Klezmer Conservatory Band: A Touch of Klez (Vanguard, 1985)
with Klezmer Conservatory Band: Prairie Home Companion: Tourists (Compilation , PHC, 1983)    
Klezmer Conservatory Band: Klez! (Vanguard, 1983)
Klezmer Conservatory Band: Yiddisher Renaissance (Vanguard, 1981)
Living Colour: Time's Up (Epic, 1990)   
Alan Lowe: At the Point of Impact (Fairhaven, 1991)
Hector Martignon: The Foreign Affair (Candid, 1998)            
David Murray: South of the Border (DIW/Columbia, 1995)          
David Murray: Big Band conducted by Lawrence "Butch" Morris (DIW/Columbia, 1992)          
NOJO (Neufeld-Occhipinti Jazz Orchestra): You Are Here (Auracle, 1998)
NOJO (Neufeld-Occhipinti Jazz Orchestra): Highwire (True North, 2002)
Michael Occhipinti: Creation Dream - The Songs of Bruce Cockburn (True North, 2000)
Mandy Patinkin: Dress Casual (CBS, 1990)   
Ralph Peterson: Ornettology (Somethin' Else/Blue Note, 1992)    
Ralph Peterson: Presents The Fo'tet (Somethin' Else/Blue Note, 1990)    
Tom Pierson: Planet of Tears (Auteur, 1996)  
President's Breakfast: Bar-B-Q Dali (Disc Lexia, 1996)  
Bobby Previte: Hue and Cry (Enja, 1994)  
Bobby Previte: Weather Clear, Track Fast (Enja, 1992)
Vernon Reid & Masque: Mistaken Identity (Sony, 1996)
Marc Ribot: Rootless Cosmopolitans  (Antilles, 1990)  
Lalo Schifrin: Esperanto (Act, 2000)
Third Person (Cora & Bennett): The Bends (Knitting Factory Works, 1990)
Titilayo: Beware The Short Hair Girl (Blue Pantry, 1997)  
Various Artists: Festival of Light (Compilation, Six Degrees, 1996)  
Various Artists: New York Downtown/Jazz & Other Sounds (Knitting Factory Works, 1996) 
Various Artists: Live at the Knitting Factory, Vol. 3 (A&M, 1990)  
Suzanne Vega: 9 Objects of Desire (A&M, 1996)
Hal Willner (producer): Weird Nightmare (Columbia, 1992)  
Cassandra Wilson: Blue Light 'Til Dawn (Blue Note, 1993)    
Reggie Workman: Altered Spaces (Leo, 1993)    
Reggie Workman: Images (Music & Arts, 1990)
Kansas City (1996); dir. Robert Altman
WALK DON'T WALK (60 Minutes); Written and Directed by Thomas Struck; Music composed and performed by Don Byron (on screen and off)
Paul Auster, Lulu on the Bridge
Joel Katz, Strange Fruit (documentary)
"Too Jewish, Too," Avi Hoffman one man show (Byron on screen and off in band)

Jeff Levenson: Profile. Don Byron, in: Down Beat, 55/1 (Jan.1988)
Bill Shoemaker: Don Byron. Busting Stereotypes, in: Jazz Times, 22/4 (May 1992)
Heinrich Oehmsen: Don Byron, in: Jazzthetik, 6/9 (Sep.1992)
Henk Kleinhout: Don Byron. Een veelzijdige virtuoos, in: Jazz Nu, #165 (Oct.1992)
Brian Morton: Kosher Dread. Don Byron, in: The Wire, 110 (Apr.1993)
Robert Hicks: Don Byronin: Coda, #252 (Nov/Dec.1993)
Stephen Sherrill: Don Byron, in: The New York Times Magazine, 16.Jan.1994
Michele Mannucci: Incontro con Don Byron, in: Musica Jazz, 50/2 (Feb.1994)
Kenny Berkowitz: Border Crossing, in: Option, #64 (Sep/Oct.1995)
Romain Grosman: Don Byron, in: Jazz Hot, #523 (Sep.1995)
Francis Davis: Bebop and Nothingness, 1996 [book]
Ingrid Monson: Saying Something. Jazz Improvisation and Interaction, 1996 [book]
Bob Bernotas: Don Byron, in: Jazz Player, 3/4 (Jun/Jul.1996)
Jim Macnie: Don Byron. Agent Imnijazz, in: Down Beat, 63/11 (Nov.1996)
Don Byron: Chords & Discords (letter), in: Down Beat, 64/1 (Jan.1997)
Bill Milkowski: Before & After. Don Byron, in: Jazz Times, 27/2 (Mar.1997)
Christian Broecking: Soulfood. Don Byron, in: Jazzthetik, 11/6 (Jun.1997)
Larry Birnbaum: 62nd Annual Down Beat Readers Poll. Don Byron, Clarinet, in: Down Beat, 64/12 (Dec.1997)


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