"Yard Byard: The Jaki Byard Project" (GM Recordings) is the work of 5 musicians - Jamie Baum (flutes), Jerome Harris (guitar), George Schuller (drums), Ugonna Okegwo (bass) and Adam Kolker (tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet) - 3 of whom (Ms. Baum, Harris and Schuller) worked and/or studied with the bandleader/Professor. You can't help but notice the absence of piano. Ms. Baum, for whom the Project has been a goal for a number of years, states on her website "the ensemble's desire is not to recreate "The Jaki Byard sound", but to both explore the beauty and creativity of his compositions and approach to the piano, as well as to convey his serious and whimsical sides."
The results, titled "Inch By Inch", live up to the group's "desire." Tracks such as "Aluminum Baby" and "St. Mark's Among The Sewers" have that whimsical feel in both the melody and rhythms, the former driven by the lovely flute melody and Schuller's active percussion, the latter on Kolker's fine tenor sax lines pushed by Okegwo's active bass work. Jerome Harris, who is, perhaps, better known for his bass playing, is on electric guitar throughout the program. His handsome work stands out on tracks such as "Ode to Charlie Parker", where he insinuates his melodic lines around the tenor sax and flute, and on "Garr", where he leads the group in with his rippling phrases. Kolker and Ms. Baum are a formidable front line; the blend of their various instruments creates numerous sonic surprises. Clarinet and alto flute mesh with guitar for the joyful melody line of "Strolling Along" while the bass clarinet provides the foundation and counterpoint on "Toni." One can not help but notice the firm touch of Okegwo's bass work in support of the group and his solos stand out as well. Schuller keeps the music moving with his usual gleeful style; whether accentuating Kolker's tenor solo on "Dolphy" or relentlessly pushing the tempo on "Twelve" or dancing gently beneath the intertwined bass clarinet, flute and guitar lines on "Gaeta", Schuller stays the course.
Yard Byard serves as a happy reminder of life and work of Jaki Byard. This quintet not only masterfully paints a picture that leaves no doubt of its love and respect for the person but also makes sure the listener knows just how special the man was. For more information, go to www.jamiebaum.com.
In 2006, baritone saxophonist Josh Sinton formed the quartet Ideal Bread to play the music of Steve Lacy, with whom he had studied at NEC. With the help of Kirk Knuffke (cornet), Tomas Fujiwara (drums) and Reuben Radding (bass), Sinton recorded a pair of CDs with the charts he had brought from his lessons with Lacy. For the group's 3rd CD, "Beating The Teens" (Cuneiform Records), Sinton decided to "recompose, reconstruct and reimagine" the music from Lacy's 3-CD set "Scratching The Seventies", a compilation of the 5 Lps the soprano saxophonist recorded for the French Saravah label. Bassist Adam Hopkins has replaced Radding in the lineup and fits right in to the experimental style Sinton has created for this music. One of the joys of listening to what the quartet does with this music is that the songs do not easily fit into any one genre. "Blinks" bounces along atop a martial beat while "Three Pieces from Tao" is now divided into 4 sections that bookend the program. "The Oil" has a punk-rock feel while "The Uh Uh Uh" dances along on a New Orleans groove.
Instead of describing each track, I'd advise to pay attention to the interactions of the quartet, to the clear tones of Knuffke's cornet, and to the great range of Sinton's baritone sax (yes, Lacy played soprano in his groups yet Sinton can sound like a tenor and alto plus can reach fairly high without screeching). The rhythm section shines brightly as well. Hopkins is a melodic bassist with a full tone and Fujiwara is so inventive, such a fine cymbal player with accents that make one smile (it's fascinating to read that Sinton wrote out the drum parts.) "Beating The Teens" is modern music, a reminder that the "tradition" of creative music is ever evolving and that the legacy of Steve Lacy lives on. Ideal Bread deserves to be seen and heard live - until then, climb into the wondrous world of this 2-CD set. For more information, go to joshsinton.com.