Don Byron is one the most familiar names in contemporary jazz music and by far the most prominent clarinetist of the last 20 years. Born in the Bronxand proud of itByron was introduced to an eclectic world of music and culture at a very young age by his pianist mother and bass-playing father. His early years saw him studying classical clarinet, playing and doing arrangements in salsa bands, and eventually attending the New England Conservatory of Music under the aegis of George Russell.
Byron's got impeccable clarinet technique, but his reputation has grown as much out of his imaginative composition, defiantly broad musical taste (as demonstrated by his arrangements of then-neglected klezmer pioneer Mickey Katz, animation composer Raymond Scott and most recently, Motown saxman/vocalist Junior Walker) , sociopolitical perspective and, of course, his penchant for playing the clarinet in hitherto unfamiliar terrain.
Although it was only one of many musical settings in which Byron played, it should be noted that he was playing klezmer music many years before it became a commercially viable genre for a musician. Byron's first recording under his own name, Tuskegee Experiments
(Nonesuch, 1992) was the best jazz album of that year and still one of the best of its decade. He's never put out a bad album, and his Latin/Caribbean Music For Six Musicians
(Nonesuch, 1995), his Raymond Scott/John Kirby/Duke Ellington connection-drawing Bug Music
(Nonesuch, 1996), his exquisite, sighing quartet set Romance With the Unseen
(Blue Note, 1999) and his inside/outside Lester Young tribute Ivey-Divey
(Blue Note, 2004) are jazz recordings of such importance and quality that it's difficult to over-praise them.
Byron has become as celebrated a composer as a musician, and A Ballad For Many, his collaboration with the new-music group Bang on a Can on their Cantaloupe labelone of his two 2006 releasesshows off his compositions to great effect. His Blue Note CD from last year, Do the Boomerang: the Music of Junior Walker, goes the opposite route as Byron and a crack band perform cracklingly tight and rather faithful versions of various songs from the discography of the great R&B tenor player/singer. Byron sticks mostly to tenor saxophone on this recording, an instrument he's currently preferring to the instrument he's made his reputation playing.
I spoke to Byron about his most recent releases, his new interest in playing both the tenor saxophone and more idiomatic musics, and a great deal more.
Why Junior Walker?
Pop and Soul Music as Composition and the Flow of Information
Collaborating with Bang on a Can
Bug Music For Juniors
The Longstanding Music for Six Musicians Group
Moving Beyond Clarinet
Why Junior Walker?
All About Jazz: You've got a couple of new releases out. I think we'll talk about them and then go back a little to discuss some other projects of yours.
First, we have your recent Blue Note release, Do the Boomerang: the Music of Junior Walker. This is a tribute to the great R&B tenor player and vocalist. With the exception of the James Brown tune "There it Is, the CD consists of songs Walker recorded in his 1960s heyday. Your A Fine Line album from 2000 was made up of other peoples' tunes, but the arrangements were your own. Here, you and a crack band duplicate the musical configuration and arrangements of Walker and his All-Stars on well-known hits of his, and also some lesser-known material. It's high time Walker got some more attentionhe was always something of an anomaly at Motown and his records are really pretty perfect. For the most part, you are playing tenor sax here instead of the clarinet you're known for.
Sobefore we discuss any particulars: why Junior Walker? And why the overall duplication of the arrangements on his recordings, right down to your playing tenor and drummer Rodney Holmes also including the tambourine that was often so dominant on Walker recordsfor that matter, on Motown records?
Don Byron: Well, why Junior Walker? Because I grew up loving Junior Walker. I was always a clarinetist, so I never really thought about playing like Junior Walker, but I just always loved his playing. I saw him play several times in different places, and I guess when I started studying tenor againand, you know, I'd had a tenor for years but never played itit was really through exploring Lester Young's method. I consider what he did a method.
So after doing that, I was like, "Oh wow, I'm really playing this instrumentwhy don't I start looking at Junior Walker? And at that point, I had checked out enough gospel music to have a different handle on what he was playing. Once I looked at it after that pointafter having both checked out some gospel music and checked out my own faithI got to the point where I was seeing the way that he played really differently. So that was just a thing that I wanted to do. Those two musicians were the reason that I play that instrument. They're the only reasons that I play that instrument. Maybe with some Eddie Harris mixed in; I was really into Eddie Harris.
AAJ: You couldn't have put together a better group of players to perform this stuff. From bassist Brad Jones to organist George Colligan and especially guitarist David Gilmore, everyone is so good and so togetherthis is really a band. I mention Gilmore especially because Willie Woods' guitar was so essential to the Walker records and Gilmore's more than up to the challenge. Tell me how you chose these playersand did you give them any conditions under which to play?
DB: No. I was using that rhythm section for my orchestra at Symphony Space. What we were doing with that orchestra was interpreting different pieces of pop music. We did one concert that was Henry Mancini and Sly Stone. We did one that was Earth, Wind & Fire and the Tijuana Brass. We were just really looking at those things orchestrally and letting people in the group besides me arrange stuff. It was an interesting group because it was really taking that kind of attention to detail that jazz musicians can have and just turning it towards something elsenot trying to turn it into jazz, but turning that level of attention about chords and bass lines and stuff like that to music that has as much detail as jazz does.
So this group was essentially my rhythm section. [Trombonist] Curtis Fowlkes, who appears on the record in the James Brown section, was one of my horn players. It was that rhythm section, a couple different singers, D.K. Dyson and Gordon Chambers, and at one point we were joined by the actual Sugarhill Gang. We were just looking at the culture, and we were really a sort of modern version of what pops orchestras dobut not with classical musicians and not with strings. Or not necessarily with strings, but being able to look at these different eras of black music and non-black music in terms of what they were really about orchestrally. So that group had already played lots of different kinds of music and looked at it very seriously together. David Gilmore sometimes uses that rhythm section for his groups and George Colligan sometimes uses that rhythm sectionyou know, we're all friends. So they all know each other really well.
AAJ: I'm interested in your willingness to submerge yourself in this music. It's a Don Byron record, but you're certainly not always the prominent player at all times. On "Do the Boomerang, after your great clarinet intro, you disappear completely. Obviously, you thought up the project and I assume you transcribed the parts for everyone, and there is plenty of saxophone soloing here, but is this project an opportunity for you to just be a little more in the band?
DB: I'm not really sure what you mean, but I can say that it's interesting for me to play an instrument that sounds so idiomatic, instead of trying to make the clarinet work in situations where it's never worked before. I always enjoyed that challenge of, say, playing a clarinet with Living Colour and knowing that no one had done anything like that on the instrument. It's kind of an interesting challenge and a scary challenge. But when you play tenor in a group like this, it just sounds idiomatic. It's just normal, which is a different position than being a clarinetist. class="f-right"> Return to Index...
Pop and Soul Music as Composition and the Flow of Information
AAJ: There's a big difference between the original Junior Walker records and Do the Boomerang, just by virtue of how they were recorded and mixed. Your recording is notable for is recorded precision: the brilliant stacked parts of the arrangements are really balanced so you can hear how perfectly everything fits together. Junior Walker records sound fantastic, but in those mono recordings certain parts take more iconic prominence, like tambourine, or sax, or the ride cymbal on "Satan's Blues. Did you have any ideas about how you wanted your recording to present the music?
DB: I got a friend of mine who actually started out as an assistant on my records and he was really the person who made it sound the way it does. I had some ideas about the kind of clarity that I wanted, because I think what people miss about black music is that these things are compositions. It's the sum of all these parts. Maybe it doesn't line up the way Tin Pan Alley songs line up, where the chords match the scales, and all that kind of stuff.
But there's a science to how different compositions line up. It's not just that they feel good. They're compositions, and they're made of all these parts, and the parts are really important. They are the composition. What you do over them is your business. What vibe you play them inthat's your business. But the composition is these parts. It's not these parts played exactly the same way every time. But it's the sense of these parts; it's that there's soul in the writing of these songs. It's not just that they happen to be soulful. They add up to being soulful because each part expresses something.
So that was kind of the principle of studying all this pop music. It's just made of all these complicated parts. Even the Herb Alpert stuff, which people thought was funnywhen you really got down to looking at how it worked, it was really complicated! And I think people underestimate that, or they think that you're a jazz musician, so you're just there to play some bebop over what's happening and you really don't see that. I'm just really interested in thisI'm interested in the music orchestrally. It's interesting orchestrally. I mean, any kind of James Brown song, with all these crazy partsit's orchestral music. It's a different vision of what orchestral music is, but it adds up to something. It's not just that he's there doing his stuff over the top. It's these parts; it's how they're played.
We would discuss it: "Is this part swinging? Is this part straight eight? We had a lot of those kinds of discussions about each section of each piece. You really think about these things, and it doesn't mean you don't play your own stuff. It just means that you have an attention to detail about the composition, and the same kind of respect you have for the composition when you're playing a piece of classical music or a jazz standard. You have a sense of respect about how a thing is put together. Everybody got a complete score. I didn't just hand people their part; I handed them a score so they could see how all the parts fit together. It's better to give good musicians a lot of information. You give them a lot of information, and then you let them go. That's what I've done with a lot of different things that I've done that are more about doing things in a historical way.
AAJ: Incidentally, I would be shocked to learn that someone thought James Brown music was just about him shouting over any old groove.
DB: I think that you would be surprised how some people in some circles really don't understand that these things are compositions. It's not just one guy being cool, with another guy being cool, and they're all so cool that it just adds up. No! This is a part of the composition, and that's a part of the composition, and it adds up to something. It's very minimal, in a way; it's very pygmy-esque, in a sense, the way some of these songs are put together. They're very African in a certain kind of way.
AAJ: Tell me about the James Brown piece, "There It Is, which is placed in the middle of the CD, surrounded by Junior Walker tunes. It's an anomaly of sorts, but perhaps it reveals some similarities between the two artists?
DB: I think it's a little beyond those kinds of similarities. I decided to do that tune because I was thinking of doing a tune of Junior Walker's called "Hip City. And when I was writing it down and looking at it, I could see it was just his version of James Brown's stuff. And I think what people miss about the soul era was that these were compositions and that these guys covered each other. Whenever you hear a soul record that's live, you always hear Aretha covering somebody else, or the Supremes covering somebody else.
Not only were these things compositions, but they were compositions that were being passed around. Aside from Eddie Harris' "Compared to What, there were all these other different versions of it that were completely different. Roberta Flack did "Compared to What with a completely different melody. It's like an academy with people passing information to each other, interpreting each other, and thinking about what the others are doing.
It's the same as other musics where that's more obvious to people. Any soul artist, when you'd hear them livethere would always be something on there. A Wilson Pickett song or something. There's always a cover of another soul artist that you wouldn't expect. And as someone who lived through the era and saw these groups and saw these things happen, I'm saying that James Brown is a big influence on everybody! He's not just an influence on Junior Walker. If you're talking about classical music in the thirties or forties, everyone's either Stravinsky or Schoenberg. It just kind of happens that way in an idiom where information is being passed around. People are interpreting each other. They're interpreting each other's information; it's all being passed around.
So for someone to say, "What's this James Brown thing doing on there? Well, that's the opposite of what I think about the era. It's the opposite of me thinking the soul era was the era of composers passing information around the way other composers pass information around.
AAJ: Do you think that's any different than it is now in pop music? Do you think there was more of a dialogue of information then?
DB: I think at that point, yeah. There probably was, because there was a small number of people who all had similar backgrounds, a lot of them came out of the churchso that was the information: the blues, and the church, and that kind of thing. It was a bunch of people who knew each other. Now everybody's just more spread out. On the other hand, I guess you could say that about hip-hop production and beats and stuff like thatthat there's that same amount of information being passed around. Certainly. It just depends on how you look at it.
AAJ: This is something you're continuing to perform liveDon Byron Plays Junior Walker. You did five nights at the Jazz Standard recently, which I'm sure was great, and which I'm equally sure isn't what someone wandering into the Jazz Standard is going to expect. Is the music changing as the group plays it night after night, and what's the audience reaction?
DB: Well, the audience reaction has been really great. The audience reaction has been, "Could you play at a place where we can dance the next time? And I'm starting to wish thatthat we can play places where people could dance if they wanted to. I think whenever you decide to play anybody's repertoire, and you're not being a drag aboutlike it's got to be exactly this or thatthings will change. We're starting to make spaces and shape a set, you know, think about what order to do things.
It's just like any other band. It's not really different for me. We're at the beginning of that. And it's really interesting to play a bunch of gigs with [guitarist/vocalist] Chris [Thomas King]. He hadn't really ever played any gigs with us, and that was really fun. It was a whole other thing, because he's a really good playerjust not in a Gilmore kind of way with a lot of technique and bebop. I felt like we were learning from each other and just, you know, figuring out how you want to present things. That's just always really interesting.
When I did some of these other really super-repertory projects like Bug Music (Nonesuch, 1996) or [Don Byron Plays the Music of] Mickey Katz (Nonesuch, 1993), those sorts of thingsyou just figure it out. "This is where it's going, this is what I want to encourage, this is what I want to discourage, this is what I want to emphasize. You just come up with your own way of doing things, and those things are happening because the players are all just very strong personalities. class="f-right"> Return to Index...
Collaborating with Bang on a Can
AAJ: Let's talk about your collaboration with Bang on a Can, as documented on your other 2006 CD, A Ballad For Many, which was released on the Cantaloupe label. This has the Bang on a Can All Stars performing a set of your compositionsyou play some clarinet on "Basquat, and on a couple of the sections of "Music From the Red-Tailed Angels, but in general you're just the composer here.
Now, I know you composed the piece "Eugene to accompany the classic silent episode of the Ernie Kovacs Show, and I know it was commissioned by Bang on a Can. But was that the beginning of your relationship with Bang on a Can or did it predate them? I know not all the material was written for them"Basquiat, for example, appears on your A Fine Line CD. Tell me the story behind this project.
DB: Well, I had played in a bunch of their marathons, and I've had a sort of running connection with the new-music communitypeople that I knew as a player and people that I've known since I became a quote-unquote composer. So when they commissioned me, I did "Eugene, because I wanted to do something with this Ernie Kovacs video, and as time has gone one, they've said things like, "Why don't we do some more things of yours? and "Why don't you show up to the gig and do another tune that you can play with us?
That's why I arranged "Basquiat for them, but I've actually recorded that piece several times in different contexts. And at the time we did the record, I added some more repertoire. One of the pieces, "Spin, was originally a violin piece which was commissioned by the Library of Congress several years ago, and so here I just kind of wrote it for cello but basically kept a lot of the same ideas in it. And some of the pieces were written just for the record.
AAJ: So with some of these pieces, it was more about arranging for them than composing.
DB: I think mostly they were pieces I wrote for them. There were just a couple of pieces that I adapted from other situations, but most of the stuff on the record is stuff that I wrote just for them.
AAJ: "Music From the Red-Tailed Angels is a piece composed of nine short sections. It's the soundtrack for Cara DeVito's documentary "The Red Tailed Angels, which is about the first African-American military airmen, the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. You're constructed a piece here out of very short materials.
DB: Well, they're film cues. They're just simply that. They are the length that they are because that's the thing that they're in, and that's how much music the director wanted. So they're film cues. If you listen to a Morricone record, it's these little features. And that's how long the scene was.
AAJ: I know "Basquiat from your A Fine Line albumthere it was performed by you and pianist Uri Caine. That version has a forlorn beauty that I've always found very moving and the song is a great favorite of mine. There's such a feeling of inevitability to its melodyin a good way. So this was a situation of arranging for Bang on a Can and yourself, and I really like how you did it, the way parts that were covered by Uri are assigned to cello, bowed bass and electric guitar.
DB: Well, with Bang on a Can you have to factor in using guitar. I think that that's the most difficult thing about writing for themwriting for a classical sound and that guitar. It's kind of tricky. They're a tricky group to write for. Other than those kinds of considerations, it wasn't a hard thing to do. It was really simple.
AAJ: I gather that "Eugene, your accompaniment to the silent Ernie Kovacs TV episode, was your idea. You must have been interested in his work.
DB: It's a piece of video from the late fifties, early sixties, that I'm using, completely silent. It's mostly silent; the original soundtrack just has a few sound effects. So I have all this stuff that's coordinated to go with the action so it all fits together with the video in a certain kind of way. And like a lot of choreographed things, really, it has its own life with no video. It's just a very choreographed piece of music.
It has a lot of references to the music of the period, so there's some of the kind of modernist stuff that he liked, like Stravinsky and Bartók, and some parts with sort of an [space-age lounge-jazz composer Juan Garcia] Esquivel feel, or [light orchestral composer] Leroy Andersonthings like that. There are a lot of those kinds of sounds in the piece, because that's what Ernie Kovacs was listening to. He knew a lot about music, about modern music. He was a very cultured person. So I wrote some music that tried to express what his culture was made up of.
AAJ: Tell me about the last piece on A Ballad For Many, "Show Him Some Lub.
DB: Earlier, I did some work with a dancer that was supposed to be about certain kinds of ethnic issues, and I came up with a way of relating to different ethnic experiences equally by asking people when they thought their group was free. At that point, there was a young woman who thought her group was free in 1900, and found out that it really wasn't like that. I think these kind of relative things about different ethnic groups are interestingwhen they were free or when they might be free, or maybe they think they'll never be free. Maybe there's a date, and it comes down to how close to it you are, or how close you think you are. All of those things have a lot to do with the chemistry of different ethnicitieshow they relate and how they see the plight of other people who are in struggle.
So I asked this group of people those questions and we recorded their answers to those questions along with the music. And I asked a bunch of questions that were very personal; many of them had to do with a person's ethnicity. Where their maternal grandmother was born, things like that. So the entire group gives answers to those different questions at different times and then those things are written into the music when they should happen. So the group almost had to give a Schoenberg-esque acting performance. Something like that, anyway. class="f-right"> Return to Index...
AAJ: Let's talk a little about your 2004 album Ivey-Divey, with drummer Jack DeJohnette and pianist Jason Moran. This was a sort of tribute to Lester Young's 1940s trio with Nat Cole and Buddy Rich, although there's more to it than that element, and in addition to the trio stuff, there's quartet material with bassist Lonnie Plaxico and some quintet stuff with trumpeter Ralph Alessi.
One thing that strikes me about the record is how, especially with the trio stuff, the songs seem to dissolve into almost fractally changing improvisation in the middles of the piecesthis is true of "I Want to Be Happy, "I've Found a New Baby, and "Abie the Fishman. There's something indescribable about what happens, and it's not just free playingthe best comparison I can make is of film, like blurring, superimposition and double exposure.
DB: Most of the more interesting players are not purely straight-ahead or purely free. They really have elements of both. Someone like Wayne Shorter has elements of both. And I think when people decide that it's only one side of the music that they're really interested in, that's always kind of a drag. It's a drag for me to be around people who are into really "out music and who can't listen to any normal music, and it's a drag for me to be around people that only like normal music and can't listen to any music that's adventurous. Because, really, the best music has both. I hear both the "out stuff and the "in stuff when I hear Nat "King Cole playsomebody like that. I hear both of those things.
And it's just unfortunate that a lot of people can't balance those two extremes; they think you can only be one and not the other. So I think what I did was gather people who kind of functioned more like thatwho have a very strong "in side and a very strong "out sideand I made an environment where they could use both and never really abandon the other. So even when the rhythm goes out, we still kind of know where everybody is.
Even when the rhythm gets kind of wrinkly, everybody knows where you are in the song. Even in some of the sections that sound pretty free, you'll see us hitting a chord together. So it's not like you have the free thing with no harmony, and it's not like there's harmony with no free stuff. At certain very impulsive moments, there can be both. So that's the kind of playing that that group does, and I think it's really different than what a lot of people do.
AAJ: What interested you in that trio of Lester Young's?
DB: He made really advanced lines that had interesting, integral shapes. He really knew how to put things together and make very asymmetrical things make sense. He was a smart guy who had obviously studied a lot of harmonic material and had really integrated that into a way of playing that was very bluesy and kind of gutbucketyet he did that with a round, soft sound, so even when he was playing things that were really strange, they didn't sound that strange. They sounded kind of smooth. So he's just an interesting guy to listen to, and the other players in that group were interesting to listen to. I just wanted to bring people together that I thought were as interesting as those players, even if it was in a different kind of way.
AAJ: One of my favorites on the Ivey-Divey record is "HIMM (For Our Lord and Kirk Franklin), which is a duet of you and Jason Moran. I've always enjoyed hearing you play with just a pianist, as you do with Uri Caine on A Fine Line. Do you think your playing changes when you're in a duet situation?
DB: Well, I'm not thinking about drums. Thinking about drums and being a clarinetistthat's a lot to think about. And I like doing it, but it takes parts of your attention away. As a clarinetist, you can't really make it so tonally fine-and-dandy as you do when you're just playing with an acoustic instrument and no drums. So those are moments to play the clarinet more like I grew up wanting to play clarinetBrahms and Mozart and stuff like that. And that's a part of my early training, playing those really seminal clarinet things with pianists. The Brahms sonatas, the Schumann "Fantasy Pieces, those kinds of things. So it really returns me to that kind of sound. class="f-right"> Return to Index...
Bug Music For Juniors
AAJ: Tell me about your Bug Music For Juniors project, formerly known as Tunes and Toons, in which your sextet presents the work of composers Duke Ellington, Raymond Scott and John Kirby alongside classic 1940s Warner Bros. cartoons and other visual material. This is for young people, of course. Tell me what you do and how it works.
DB: Well, we show footage of the three bands involved, some footage of Raymond Scott at work, the Warner Bros. stuff. We explain how the instruments work and talk a little about some lightweight compositional issues. It's not dumbed-down at all; I think people who are older that come to see it enjoy it, but it's really targeted to make people kind of pay attention to this music that's always been around and its relationship to Ellington. People don't realize that there's a connection between John Kirby and Raymond Scott, and that those bands were kind of related. They were related to the early part of Duke Ellington's work in a very direct kind of way.
So it's a presentation, a multimedia presentation, but with live musicians who are really world-classnot just anybody. I mean, when we played on Broadway, Billy Hart played the drums. We had Billy Hart, [bassist] Mark Helias, [keyboardist] George Colligan and [trumpeter] James Zollarit was a real band that you'd pay to hear just playing what they play.
AAJ: I asked [trumpeter] Steven Bernstein this same question: What do young people like in music?
DB: I think you'd have to ask them. I only know what really interests me. I know young people hear the blues a lot easier than they hear a Tin Pan Alley song that our folks grew up on. Because they really haven't grown up in an era where it's not about the blues, not about more Junior Walker-esque values, as opposed to standard tunes and stuff like that. class="f-right"> Return to Index...
The Longstanding Music for Six Musicians Group
AAJ: Your Music for Six Musicians band hasn't recorded for a while since you did the Music For Six Musicians album (Nonesuch, 1995) and You Are #6: More Music For Six Musicians CD (Blue Note, 2001), but the band still plays together. There is so much beauty in the music of this group, as well as a sort of kind humor and all that rhythm. Tell me what you like about playing with this band, and what you are saying with it.
DB: Well, it's been the place where I play my compositions in the most unfiltered way, because I'm really working with the elements that I grew up with. Caribbean music, clarinet, piano. Those are all a part of my upbringing. So it's always been a place that I've felt really comfortable to develop a lot of my more conceptual ideas. And I've developed this group of people who will learn something, adapt, and play off of it. They have to learn the music really well, and then kind of get off it, in a way. They've been the band I've really worked with the most over the years, and I'm really thankful that I've had that band for so long. class="f-right"> Return to Index...
Moving Beyond Clarinet
AAJ: As a clarinetist, you have taken the instrument to places that I haven't heard it go before. It's remarkable what you can make the instrument do, and the settings in which you've placed it. Are there still places for you to take it?
DB: I think I've done about as much for the clarinet as I'm going to do for a while. I'm not so involved in being some kind of conceptual warrior for its survival. Now I just want to play whatever kind of music I ever wanted to play; I want to play that before I'm through. I'm more concerned with that than where the clarinet is right now. I think the saxophone has really changed my attitude, and I think the clarinet is kind of established. I started playing the Jewish stuff, people told me not to play it, and now everybody plays that stuff.
It's become a business to do left-wing Jewish stuff. And a lot of the people who are kind of my competitors have really benefited from my taking the instrument to some of these places where people wouldn't normally see it, or trying to really be as hip as someone would be on the saxophone or trumpet, in terms of a modernism of line, or modernism of approach. So I've done my share for that. I don't really have anything to prove to anybody about that. I just want to play some music now on any instrument I feel like playing. If I feel like just writing for a while, I might just write for a while. But I've done my justice to the clarinet.
AAJ: What are you going to do next?
DB: I think I may make a jazz record with some of the people I like playing withBilly Hart, [pianist] Ed Simon and some other folks. So I'm working on that. class="f-right"> Return to Index...
Don Byron, Do the Boomerang: the Music of Junior Walker (Blue Note, 2006)
Bang on a Can & Don Byron, A Ballad For Many (Cantaloupe Music, 2006)
Don Byron, Ivey-Divey (Blue Note, 2004)
Ralph Alessi, This Against That (RKM, 2002)
Don Byron, You Are #6: More Music For Six Musicians (Blue Note, 2001)
Don Byron, A Fine Line: Arias & Lieder (Blue Note, 1999)
Don Byron, Romance With the Unseen (Blue Note, 1999)
Don Byron and Existential Dred, Nu Blaxploitation (Blue Note, 1998)
Neufeld-Occhipinti Jazz Orchestra with Don Byron, You Are Here (True North, 1998)
Don Byron, Bug Music (Nonesuch, 1996)
Vernon Reid & Masque, Mistaken Identity (550 Music/Epic, 1996
Don Byron Quintet, No-Vibe Zone: Live at the Knitting Factory (Knitting Factory Works, 1995)
Don Byron, Music For Six Musicians (Nonesuch, 1995)
Jerome Harris, Hidden in Plain View (New World Records, 1995)
Uri Caine, Toys (JMT, 1995)
Bill Frisell, This Land (Elektra, 1994)
Don Byron, Don Byron Plays the Music of Mickey Katz (Nonesuch, 1993)
Don Byron, Tuskeegee Experiments (Nonesuch, 1992)
Bobby Previte, Weather Clear, Track Fast (Enja, 1991)
Gerry Hemingway, Special Detail (HatHut, 1991)
Don Byron: Thinking and Rethinking (Artist Profile, 2006)
A Fireside Chat with Don Byron (Interview, 2004)
Top and Bottom Photos: Till Krautkraemer
Center Top Photo: Andreas Eisler
Center Bottom Photo: Henry Benson