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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
When was the last time anyone here listened to the recordings of Don Byas?
I find myself going back to him and his playing often, just to remind myself of what was possible (impossible for anyone else) on the tenor saxophone.
I feel he was incredibly overlooked even to this day and much forgotten for his contributions to the style of modern saxophone playing. He connected the swing era to bebop and played with the most ferocity and swing along with a huge, gigantic, yet beautiful sound.
If you listen to his 1944-1946 recordings (he was one of the most recorded musicians in 1945 and 1946) he had it all. An incredible ballad style, huge fat sound, but with an edge and a bite, an extraordinarily advanced harmonic vocabulary and ridiculous chops.
He also used a lot of chromaticism and he almost never repeated himself. Coleman Hawkins was interviewed and he said he had to stop hiring Don Byas in his group because he had to work too hard.
Sonny Stitt said that there was a jam session and every known tenor player was there, including Hawk, Pres and so on......and Sonny Stitt said that "Don walked away with it all."
He could also play blues better than just about anyone, especially Db blues (concert Db was a favorite key of the old-timers and swing era cats, but it's a great key for the blues, in my opinion.
I know he was a huge influence on many guys like Johnny Griffin, Paul Gonsalves, Lucky Thompson, Benny Golson and other heavyweights.
So are there any other players who love the great Don Carlos Wesley Byas?
 

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I always listen to Don Byas. What I mean is, almost daily. Today I was listening to some of the wonderful Paris recordings, recently re-released (1946-1954 Complete Paris Recordings, featuring Martial Solal and Mary Lou Williams), which are incredible. I also love his album with Ben Webster, which was one of his, and Ben's final ones. I love everything he ever recorded and I think madbebopper makes some excellent observations about Don's style. Two other good albums I would highlight are the ones with Sir Charles Thompson and the Live At Ronnie's (beautiful version of I Remember Clifford), but my two absolute favourites are the two live recordings he made at the Montmartre in 1963 with the underrated genius pianist Bent Axen, released on the Black Lion label. He plays like a mofo on these albums, in beautiful, swinging, heartfelt, long lines, displaying all the characteristics he is known for, but with an added, almost soul searching, even desperate, edge. He plays incredible versions of Night In Tunisia, Anthropology, I'll Remember April. If you get any albums of Don Byas, get these two quick!
 

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I remember some Bird documentary where this woman who was a young Jazz fan in the mid 40's said that before Parker burst on the scene, Byas was the man. In her words, Don Byas was THE END!"...

Do you guys think he's somewhat overlooked these days because of Parker? Bird seemed to make everyone seem redundant overnight, but in hindsight, he wasn't doing THAT much more than Byas and others, was he?
 

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Check out the recording of Don with Bud Powell. This was produced by Cannonball Adderly, I think. Really great playing by Don on this one. There is also a rare recording of him playing "Don't Blame me". It is really special. Super chops and lyricism.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Yes, JPWGibson, this is a masterpiece and a marvel of jazz improvisation captured for all time. I'm sure Sonny Stitt must have listened closely to this as many other saxophonists did. One of the real classics of saxophone mastery and virtuosity!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Tough question......as much as Bird has been my number one idol on the alto sax, Don really was as advanced, if not more advanced a player than Bird in 1944 and 1945. Although I hate to make comparisons, because Charlie Parker contributed so damn much to the language and phrasing of the style, Don was definitely one of the primary architects of the new music. Dizzy, Hawk and many others stated this, and I know Monk thought Don was out of sight, too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I absolutely agree with you Berg-Man! I love Lucky Thompson too but he is definitely in Don Byas' debt stylistically, although Lucky has a lot of originality. I guess they both were branches of the Hawk tree, to some extent.
 

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His harmonic approach was very different from everyone else of that time.

I have recently been exploring the under appreciated tenor players lately. People such as Don Byas, Wardell Gray, and Jimmy Forrest. Good stuff...
 

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His harmonic approach was very different from everyone else of that time.

So true even to this day. wasn't said that he was very influenced by Art Tatum and his modern harmonic mazes? seems to be true and Rahsaan Roland Kirk also was a big Don Byas fan and got to jam with him in New York.
 
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