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CD/LP/Track Review

Don Byas Quartet: Featuring Sir Charles Thompson

By Published: February 1, 2001
Don Byas, believing he was never going to get the recognition he deserved in this country because of bigotry, left the United States for Europe and never looked back. Virtually all of his good work was done on the Continent. Usually cited as one of the first tenor saxophonist to take up Bop, Byas never let go of his romantic and swinging roots. This reissue of a free wheeling live performance demonstrates how successful Byas was in merging all these influences into his recognizable sax sound. Tracks like "Gone with the Wind", and "Darn That Dream" recall Byas' classic 1953 outing with Mary Lou Williams where he brought the ballad sax to a new level. At the same time, "Autumn Leaves" brings to the fore Byas' bop proclivities which he so eloquently waxed on his mid 1940 sides for Savoy. On a lengthy "Tenderly" - - more than seven minutes - - the sax man engages in imaginative improvisation. "But Not for Me" swings like crazy recalling Byas' days with the Count Basie Orch. when he took over Lester Young's chair.

Byas is joined on this set by another emigree, pianist Sir Charles Thompson. These two were together on that famous jazz highway, New York's 52nd Street, during the early days of Bop before departing for more appreciative shores. Thompson took a relatively simplistic, clean approach to the piano, leaving lots of space between the chords. This creates a favorable contrast with the sometimes busy sax of Byas. Occasional bumps in the road notwithstanding, this CD offers an hour of solid playing from two of jazz history's more neglected figures. The only complaint with this CD is that sometimes Thompson sounds as if he's playing the piano in the next room. Despite that flaw, this album is recommended.


Track Listing: Autumn Leaves; Darn That Dream; Bag's Groove; Tenderly; But Not for Me; Gone with the Wind; The Girl from Ipanema; Loverman; Stella by Starlight; Jumpin' at Basie's

Personnel: Don Byas - Tenor Sax; Sir Charles Thompson- Piano; Isla Eckinger - Bass; Peter Schmidlin -Drums

Record Label: Storyville Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream



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