Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for readers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

426

Chris Byars: Night Owls and Steeplechase Jam Session #15

Florence Wetzel By

Sign in to view read count








Chris Byars Octet
Night Owls
Smalls Records
2006


Kris Allen, Chris Byars, Loren Stillman
Steeplechase Jam Session # 15
Steeplechase Records
2006




Saxophonist, composer, arranger and bandleader Chris Byars is one of the most versatile musicians on today's jazz scene. A consummate professional, Byars began performing at age 7 as a singer and ballet dancer. He started studying alto sax the same week as his final performance and he hasn't looked back since. His musical activities have included Sunday night jam sessions at Smalls with his Octet, the quartet Across 7 Street, a Lucky Thompson tribute, performances as a cultural ambassador with the Ari Roland Quartet and a grant to bring Gigi Gryce's music back into the schools. This is a man with a mission and the energy to carry it out.

Two new CDs showcase Byars' talent and inherent musicality. Night Owls is a terrific CD by his Octet, a group of first-rate musicians including three Vanguard Orchestra stalwarts - John Mosca (trombone), Gary Prikbek (alto sax and flute) and Richie Vitale (trumpet and flugelhorn). The group also includes Mark Lopeman (baritone sax), Sacha Perry (piano), Neal Miner (bass), Andy Watson (drums) with Byars on tenor sax, flute and clarinet. Byars also arranged 10 of the disc's 12 songs and composed two of them, as well as put in all the hard work needed to keep a large ensemble fresh and functioning.

The CD is mostly composed of chestnuts, but although the songs are traditional the music feels modern and vital. Highlights include a tight, rapid arrangement of "All or Nothing at All . The front line is absolutely seamless, in sync with not a loose note to be found. Byars' solo is fast and fluid, backed by the hard-driving rhythm section. Byars' ballad "The Inevitable is full of wistful complexity - you can feel the regret pouring out of his horn. "The Way You Look Tonight is another hot-tempo version of a classic. Byars' solo is formidable and the front line impresses once again with its ability to play fast and furious without losing an iota of control.

This is a charismatic group, full of energy and high-powered sounds. It's clear this music is deeply felt by all the musicians and the songs are full of toe-tapping rhythms that get into the listener's bones. These days large ensemble groups are a rarity and it's testimony to Byars' talent and drive that his Octet is such a thorough success.

Steeplechase Jam Session Vol. 15 is also impressive. Part of the venerable Steeplechase Jam Session series, this CD features an unusual front line composed of three alto saxophones: Byars, Loren Stillman and Kris Allen. They're backed by Steeplechase pillar Andy Laverne on piano, plus Steve Laspina (bass) and Billy Drummond (drums). The liner notes generously provide the solo lineups, allowing the listener to dig in and appreciate the alto sax' versatile magic.

The CD's nine songs include an original by Byars, three by Laverne and appropriately two by Charlie Parker, jazz' seminal alto player. Their version of "Steeplechase walks the tricky line of evoking Bird without imitating him. Each of the saxists solos and each subtly quote Bird but these are strong players who speak their own language. The song is delightfully agile, with the rhythm section propelling the saxophones every step of the way.

Laverne's "I Got it Good and That Ain't Bad has a lovely melody, warm and slightly wistful. Drummond plays a gentle bossa beat that provides the perfect background for the saxophonists, who each get generous solo space. There's also a nice solo by Laverne, full of enchanting runs that evoke his teacher, the great Bill Evans. The CD also has a beautiful medley composed of three ballads, each one a solo by one of the altoists: "You've Changed with Stillman, "Autumn Nocturne with Byars and "Prisoner of Love with Allen. It's a nice concept that gives each soloist the space to shine. Altogether the CD is thoroughly enjoyable, with a refreshingly understated energy.


Tracks and Personnel

Night Owls

Tracks: All Or Nothing At All; The Inevitable; Grid; Manhattan Valley; In Da Funhouse; Blue Gardenia; Night Owls; The Way You Look Tonight; Nancy; Conception; Village Beauty; Let's Kiss & Make Up.

Personnel: Chris Byars: tenor sax, flute, clarinet; Gary Pribek: alto sax, flute; Mark Lopeman: baritone sax, clarinet; Richie Vitale: trumpet, flugelhorn; John Mosca: trombone; Sacha Perry: piano; Neal Miner: bass; Andy Watson: drums.

Steeplechase Jam Session # 15

Tracks: You Know How It Is; Apropos; Steeplechase; I Got It Good That Ain't Bad; Ballad Medley: You've Changed; Ballad Medley: Autumn Nocturne; Ballad Medley: Prisoner of Love; Hydroponic; Blues for Alice.

Personnel: Andy LaVerne: piano; Billy Drummond: drums; Chris Byars: alto saxophone; Kris Allen: alto saxophone; Loren Stillman: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Steve LaSpina: bass.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Warning: include(/data/websites/jazznearyou.com/www/html/templates/calendar/cal_related_cached.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/websites/allaboutjazz.com/www/html/content/article.php on line 68

Warning: include(): Failed opening '/data/websites/jazznearyou.com/www/html/templates/calendar/cal_related_cached.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/lib/php5:/data/websites/allaboutjazz.com/www/html:/usr/share/php') in /home/websites/allaboutjazz.com/www/html/content/article.php on line 68

More Articles

Read Rock Candy: Montrose (eponymous) & Paper Money Multiple Reviews Rock Candy: Montrose (eponymous) & Paper Money
by Doug Collette
Published: December 29, 2017
Read Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition & Rez Abbasi’s Invocation Multiple Reviews Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition & Rez...
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 27, 2017
Read Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk & Najwa Multiple Reviews Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk & Najwa
by Doug Collette
Published: December 23, 2017
Read The Original Delaney & Bonnie (Accept No Substitute) and To Bonnie From Delaney Multiple Reviews The Original Delaney & Bonnie (Accept No Substitute)...
by Doug Collette
Published: December 23, 2017
Read Van Morrison: Roll With The Punches & Versatile Multiple Reviews Van Morrison: Roll With The Punches & Versatile
by Doug Collette
Published: December 17, 2017
Read The Possibilities of Percussion: Yarn/Wire & ensemble, et. al Multiple Reviews The Possibilities of Percussion: Yarn/Wire & ensemble,...
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: December 12, 2017
Read "New, Notable and Nearly Missed" Multiple Reviews New, Notable and Nearly Missed
by Phil Barnes
Published: January 25, 2017
Read "The Possibilities of Percussion: Yarn/Wire & ensemble, et. al" Multiple Reviews The Possibilities of Percussion: Yarn/Wire & ensemble,...
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: December 12, 2017
Read "Dan Phillips Returns To Chicago" Multiple Reviews Dan Phillips Returns To Chicago
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 21, 2017
Read "Tim Motzer: Wandering the Depths of Space" Multiple Reviews Tim Motzer: Wandering the Depths of Space
by Geno Thackara
Published: May 22, 2017
Read "Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition & Rez Abbasi’s Invocation" Multiple Reviews Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition & Rez...
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 27, 2017
Read "Margrete Grarup: Denmark's jazz secret is out" Multiple Reviews Margrete Grarup: Denmark's jazz secret is out
by Chris Mosey
Published: May 28, 2017