Jaki Byard: Twelve




Jaki Byard (piano)


Jaki Byard Quartet: Live! (Prestige PCD24121-2)

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Jaki Byard (piano), Joe Farrell (tenor saxophone), George Tucker (bass), Alan Dawson (drums).

Composed by Jaki Byard


Recorded: live, "Lennie's-on-the-Turnpike,”West Peabody, Mass., April 15, 1965


Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

Pianist/composer Jaki Byard was so rambunctiously creative, it's no surprise he caught the ear of Charles Mingus, with whom he played off and on during the 1960s. Recorded in 1965 at a place called Lennie's on the Turnpike outside Boston, "Twelve" opens a transcendent album. A knotty, medium-up, asymmetrical 12-bar non-blues to begin, the tune kicks into a cooking, Mingus-like 6/8 blues underneath Farrell's inside/out tenor solo, before morphing into a straight-ahead 4/4 blues. Farrell is his usual extraordinary self—a tenor saxophonist blessed with monster chops and an even more profound imagination, whose unflagging energy levitates the bandstand. Byard follows with a discursive, yet fiercely swinging piano solo, following the form and harmonic contour with the loose assurance of someone who knows his destination well and is determined to enjoy the ride. The piano sounds like a slightly out-of-tune upright, yet somehow the instrument's homeliness fits Byard's guileless, joyful style. Bassist Tucker is a bit far back in the mix, but his percussive, swinging presence is felt. Dawson plays as if he's thinking Byard's thoughts, so closely does he follow and complement the pianist's whims. A confab of underappreciated jazzers if ever there was one, this was a tremendous band.

Reviewer: Chris Kelsey

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