Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Morris, Byron (James Byron)
Morris, Byron (James Byron), alto, sorprano, and tenor saxophonist, flutist; b. Roanoke, VA, 7 January 1941. His father James William "Jim Billy" Morris, (b.1916 d.1985) was a saxophonist (tenor, alto) arranger, bandleader (The Aristocrats, 1946-1961). His grandmother: Mattie V. Morris, (b.1900 d.1998) was a business person and cosmetologist, who also played the piano, violin and sang religious and popular songs. His mother is Verna V. Steadman, (b.1919). His sister Deborah M.Burnett, (b.1949) sings and plays flute, mainly religious music.
Morris graduated from Lucy Addison High School in 1959 and attended Tuskegee University, earning his BS Degree in Electrical Construction Engineering in 1964. He's studied privately with J.W. Morris, Bernie Whitman, Joseph Finley, L. Reynolds Wyatt, John Brown, Frank Foster, Jackie McLean, Jimmy Owens, Ornette Coleman, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, John Malachi, Jimmy Heath, Webster Young, and Thomas "Wit" Williams. He co-founded three musical groups: Unity, with Vincent McEwan and Gerald Wise in 1972; Three Saxes For Lester (Young), founded in 1981 with Ron Holloway and Clyde Dickerson; and Swingin' Saxes, an out-growth of Three Saxes For Lester, with in late 1983 Orrin Hall added on tenor sax, and Charlie Young on baritone & alto saxes, and a broadening of the repertory as well. All three groups have been active in the Washington, D.C. area performing at all the major venues in the Washington, Baltimore, MD metro areas, i.e., Blues Alley, Ke nnedy Center Cool Jazz Festival, Wolf Trap Performance Arts Center, Carter Barron Amphitheater, Fort DuPont Park Jazz series, Left Bank Jazz Society of Baltimore, at the Famous Ballroom in Baltimore, MD.. He also has hosted radio shows in Poughkeepsie/Beacon, NY in 1973 (during this time he worked with Joe McPhee) and from 1977-83 on WPFW-FM, Washington, DC. He received Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1973, 1978 and 1983, the last to conduct educational workshops on jazz history in secondary schools and college for students ages 12 to 22. He produces his own recordings. From 1980 - 1988, he presented a music lecture series at the University of Maryland at College Park, MD. This series was initiated by Dr. James Otis Williams, Director of the Nyumburu Cultural Center Program at the University, and featured Byron Morris yearly in presentations developed by him.
He's a member of the following organization: BMI - Broadcast Music Incorporated, NMPA/HFA - National Music Publisher's Assoc, Inc. & Harry Fox Agency, Inc., CMRRA - Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency, LTD, NARAS - National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences - (past member), Universal Jazz Coalition - (past member), AF of M - American Federation of Musicians, and CAMPHE - Consortium of American Music Performers, Historians and Educators.
Joe Mcphee & Survival Unit Ii: At Wbai's Free Music Store (1971); Byron & Gerald: Unity (1972); Unity: Blow Thru Your Mind (1974); Byron Morris & Unity: Vibrations, Themes & Serenades (1979); Honey, I Love (1982); Unity: Vibrations In Time (1994); Universal Sounds Of America (1995); Jazzier Rhythms Compilation Series (1997); Cream Of Jazzy Vibes (2000); Byron Morris and Unity: Live! At The East Coast Jazz Festival (1998); Jaz Spectrum 2 (2000); Unity Y2K (2003)
1973 - WSPK-FM, monthly co-host on "Rhythm's In Black", Poughkeepsie/Beacon, NY.
1977 - 1979, WPFW-FM weekly host, engineer and producer of the four-hour show; "Bright Moments", Washington, DC.
1980 - 1983, WPFW-FM monthly host, engineer and producer of the three-hour show; "Serenades", Washington, DC.
The Radio Shows that Byron hosted and produced were a forum to present 20th-Century American popular and art music. The programs had a connoisseur's perspective, with the full awareness of the contributions made in American musical history by many, many artist, i.e., Ferdinand L. "Jelly Roll" Morton, Thomas "Fats" Waller, Irvin Berlin, George Gershwin, Edward K. "Duke" Ellington, Thelonious S. Monk, Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane to name a very few.
Byron received Grants from the National Endowment for the Arts in the following years and categories:
1973 - Fellowship-Grant to study music and composition with the internationally known musician Frank Foster.
1978 - Fellowship-Grant to write, compose and arrange various musical works. Several of these compositions and arrangements appeared on the record albums listed on page one of this document.
1983 - Fellowship-Grant for performance. Byron, conducted educational workshops in secondary schools and at the College level for students from ages 12 to 22. Presented a historical overview of American Classical Music, i.e. Jazz, from 1900 to the present. We presented lectures, film/videos, recordings, live performances and demonstrations.
Byron Morris and Unity