Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Byrd, Warren

Byrd, Warren, pianist, composer, arranger; b. Hartford, CT, 24 January 24, 1965. His parents are Judge Nathaniel Byrd, Sr., born September 5, 1917 in Camilla, Ga. and Evelyn Elizabeth Byrd (Gibson) born January 11, 1922 in Macon, Ga. Warren was the youngest of 16 including 5 brothers and 10 sisters. The brothers include: Judge Nathaniel Byrd, Jr., b. July 4, 1943, Macon, Ga., (briefly played clarinet as child, also amateur singer), Albert Wendell Byrd, b. February 11, 1946,(dabbled with many musical instruments), Johnathan David Byrd, b.June 24, 1955, Micheal Douglas Byrd, b. August 17, 1956, and William Randolph Byrd, b. October 12, 1959, (fine amateur singer), the last five of which where born in Hartford, Ct. The sisters include: Barbara Robinson, b. January 29, 1939, Macon, Ga., Vivian Rose Byrd, b. September 2, 1940, Macon, Ga., Betsy Porter, b. January 3, 1942, Macon, Ga. All the rest born in Hartford, Ct. include Loretta King, b.December 30, 1945, Linda Danniel Owens, b.April 5, 1947 (amateur singer in youth), Evelyn Elizabeth Schwapp, b. July 26, 1948 (singer-actress-community activist), Sylvia Elaine Byrd, b. September 16, 1949 (amateur singer), Juanita Louise Otieku, b.May 31, 1952 (sang), Lila Clarisse Byrd, b. March 28, 1953, Claudia Juliet Pierce, b.February 23, 1958 (amateur singer).

Warren was exposed to a wide range of music early on through recordings, media, and through his family. Began singing in church choir at age four. Encouraged esp. by his father to listen to Jazz and could sing through all the parts of his father's big band collection (Ellington, Basie, Glen Gray, etc.). Officially joined the church choir at Warburton Church at age 7 along with his brother Billy (William) and sister Claudia. He would continue singing from this time 1972 until about 1985 under the direction of Thomasina Neely, 1972-1977, Joyce Hudson, 1977-1983, and Marion McIntosh, 1983-1985.

He began formal piano study with Neely at age 11 learning the basic rudiments of music theory with her. He began composing at this time. During the years between ages 12 and 19, he performed quite prolifically as a musician, singer, and actor in Hartford often in high profile. He apprenticed in church as an impromptu accompanist for singers as well as choirs usually by ear, but was also chosen to accompany by singers he knew through the church for social functions. Also he was often engaged as a singer for these. Rarely was he paid for these services. As an actor, he appeared in over twenty plays. He did six major productions with the celebrated Hartford Stage Company Summer Youth Theatre under the direction of Clay Stevenson from 1979 to 1984. He also worked with several other theatre groups in the Hartford area often using his improvising skills on piano or as well his compositions.

During this period, he also studied privately with Ken LaRue(1977-Fall), Rachel Richardson(1980-Fall) and breifly with Julius Williams (1983-Summer). Not enthusiastic as a student, he taught himself a great deal by listening, practicing, and composing. At South Catholic High, not only did he sing with chorus and Madrigals, but he also studied Music Theory under R.Leslie Childs.

From this period he emerged primarily a self-taught pianist and budding composer having been exposed to an exhaustive range of music. He was awarded a full scholarship for Classical Voice from Hartt College of Music in the spring of 1983. (Apparently he had auditioned for Jackie McLean as well as the Voice department at this school.) Warren soon left Hartt to pursue his own way. During this period, searching through further self-studies in Music, Poetry, Art, and many other subjects he experimented with sythesizing a cross-preparation approach to improvisation and composition. He also began using multitrack recording for compositional studies. As a musician he worked sporadically on many counts but he had not yet truly become professional.
From 1987, Warren began working professionally and by 1989 summer he had become a full-time musician. His versatility has been in evidence throughout his career having worked with many Connecticut based groups playing all kinds of music.

Four groups he worked with especially during the period between 1989-2000 comprise a great investment of his talent. They include: Streetemperature, a Hartford-area ensemble of eightpieces (4 "horns", 4 rythym) whose repertoire consisted of jazz, blues and pop assortment (Keyboardist 1989 June--1990 July); Espada (A.K.A. Nubian Nation, Sounds Of the Universe), another Hartford-area group of varying size whose repertoire was rife with Latin and Funk tinged Jazz originals as well as jazz fusion classics imbued with high improvisational chemistry. Warren contributed many compositions and arrangements to this group (Keyboardist/(at times)musical director 1989 May, 1990--1997); The Jazz Explorers, (Steve Davis, Leader/Trombone), a group of young players who grew out of Jackie McLean's African-American Music program at Hartt College of Music who mixed a Jazz Composer's workshop with exploring the Jazz canon under the umbrella of hard-driving Straight-Ahead Jazz (Pianist/Composer/Arranger 1994 Winter--1997 Summer); The Mixashawn Quartet (A.K.A. Wave, Word Out), Mixashawn (Lee) Rozie,Reeds/Vocals/Misc./Leader),  a group whose leader calls the music "Omni-pop" (Keyboards/Piano/vocals/Misc.,1995 Spring--Present).

Bassist David Chevan and Warren met some time in 1995 and Chevan empolyed Byrd later do work with Chevan's Bassology. They began working with each other often until they eventually formed the David Chevan/Warren Byrd Duo in 1997. At rendering improvisational versions Black religious and Jewish liturgical songs, they have garnered much attention throughout the U.S. and parts abroad. Eventually in 2001 they through Chevan's pluck formed the Afro-Semitic Experience, an expansion and protraction on similiar themes. Also in 2001 Trumpeter Saskia Laroo and Warren Byrd met and he has worked with the Dutch Jazz Scene female standout prolifically and internationally in the U.S., her native Holland(the Netherlands), Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, Curacao/Dutch Antilles, Germany and Russia. In 1999 Warren formed the Warren Byrd Group and played a mixture of standards and originals in a trio setting, but also often expanding the instrumentation.

Other band credits would include--1987-1996 Rick Brown's Excursion: Jazz, Funk, R&B, Fusion, 1992--present Nita Zarif Quartet: Vocalist & Jazz Trio, 1990--1997 the McGhee/Byrd duo, 1993--1995 Mike DiRubbo Quartet,1994 Paul Brown Quartet, Salim Washington Ensembles.

The list of musicians Warren has worked with are immense in number: (in alphabetical order) Pheroan Aklaff, Eric Alexander, Newman Taylor Baker, Mickey Bass, Rich Bolger, Jaki Byard, Taylor Ho Bynum, Alvin Carter, Micheal Carvin, Gwen Cleveland, Hans Dulfer, Martin Van Duynhoven, Gordon Emerson, Wayne Escoffery, Jimmy Greene, Steve Hall, Eddie Henderson, Fred Ho, Jay Hoggard, Harold Holt, Tido Holtkamp, Javon Jackson, Brian Jenkins, Bheki Khoza, Fred Lacy, Charles Langford, John Lamkin, Tony Lee, Steve Lehman, Tony Leone, Jed Levy, Brian Lynch, Charles McPherson, Eric McPherson, Marion Meadows, Bob Mintzer, Montenia, Shawn Montiero, Sam Newsome, Ugonna Okegwo, Jeremy Pelt, Steve Porter, Rick Rozie, Bill Saxton, Steve Schlatter, Micheal Scott, Archie Shepp, Carolinda Simoes, David Stolz, Roseanne Vitro, Yohuru Ralph Williams, Al Wilson, Steve Wilson, Vishnu Wood, and many more.

Warren has accompanied and composed for dance since 1985, and consistently since 1991. He was recently commissioned to compose "Four Pieces for Dance" by Susan Palmer for her Footnotes Dance Company who also choreographed and performed the work in Hartford, Ct. in November of 2002. He also composed pieces for the Fuller Dance Company collaborating with Justine Fuller in many settings. Other dance troupes and choreographers include Avis Hatcher, David Dorfman, Peggy Lyman, Alvin Ailey touring Company, and many others.

Warren has also composed incidental music for the Hartford Children's Theatre's productions of "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe"(1990), "TheArkansas Bear"(1991), and "The Secret Garden"(1993), and has been an improvising pianist in productions by the Performing Ensemble (as well as an actor, between 1982--1986).

Warren also worked as a Choir Director at Shiloh Baptist Church 1988--1994. Here he composed as well as re-arranged hymns and popular gospel songs. He also staged two concerts.

Recordings:
Truth Raised Twice (2000); Warren Byrd/David Chevan Duo: Avadim Hayinu (1998), Let Us Break Bread Together (2000); Warren Byrd/David Chevan's Afro-Semitic Experience: This is the Afro-Semitic Experience (2002); More than four hours of unreleased personal multi-tracked compositional experiments between 1984--1996 of Warren's works.

As sideperson:
Espada: We Carry You To Love (1993), numerous unpublished live concert recordings between1992 and 1995; Explorers Quintet: The Moon Knows (1994), Over The
Rainbow (1995), Diaspora (1996), New Terrain (2001); David Chevan: Bassology--The Feeling that I Get (1997)

Videos:
The Hartford Stage Company Summer Youth Theatre Productions of six famous Broadway musicals in the Augusts of 1979--1984. Also CBS Saturday mornings kids' edition featured the group in 1980; The Hartford Contemporary Dance Ensemble, Black Perspective: Mother's Day Special -WVIT, Host Anita Ford Saunders 1986 (Award Winning); Streetemperature, Promo Feature 1990; Rick Brown's Excursion, Bushnell Theatre, August 1987 (Opening for Mahattan and Blue Magic Concert); Viedotapes exist of Sunday morning church services some of which Warren's directorial work is present between 1991--1994 at Shiloh Baptist Church; Espada, Various viedotaped concerts, festivals, and clubdates during 1993--1995, including one attempt at a music video; Various club dates at the cafe 880 Jazz in Hartford, Ct. with many groups including his own between 1998-2001; Warren Byrd Group/ Thelonious Monk Tribute/ Oct. 2001 at the cafe 880 Jazz (Hartford, Ct.); Bassology, Various viedos incl. many at Toad's Place in New Haven, Ct.between 1997-1999; Warren Byrd/David Chevan Duo--many videos exist between 1998--Present some which include: Opening for Stanley Jordan at Toad's Place (Fall 1998[?])/Interview and excerpts from Washington D.C. Jewish Community Center concert aired on "Religion & Ethics"(PBS) aired May-June of 2001./Viedotaped Int. and Concert performance at Quinnapiac College(intended for National Geographic on PBS--unreleased)/ Concert at Wayne State University, Detroit, Mi. March 2001; Craig Fredrick, Sculptor "The Making of 'Home'" Warren Byrd, Narrator and Soundtrack composer/performer (improvised piano pieces).

Radio broadcasts:
WHCN, Live Broadcast Interviews with Laurie Gypson-Radio Announcer for"Jazz Brunch", April 2000 and October 2001 (taped versions exist); There have been many interviews, reviews, and pieces on the Warren Byrd/David Chevan Duo (or Chevan/Byrd) between 1998--Present. Of note is the NPR broadcast of a feature produced and conducted by Phyllis Jaffe aired in April 2002.

Bibliography:
The Hartford Advocate, "Jazz Straight Up: Flying Straight with Warren Byrd"/writer-Steve Starger.

Contact information:
Warren Byrd, Byrdspeak Productions
33 West Euclid Street
Hartford, Ct. 06112-1117
Phone: 860 242 3160
E-mail: byrdspeak@hotmail.com

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