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Jaki Byard: Family Man

Jim Santella By

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Named for his family members, several movements from Jaki Byard’s "Family Suite" relate the deep affection the pianist harbored for his home and family. Byard made his decision early on in his career to work close to home rather than travel. Recorded in 1978, long out of print, but reissued last month for the first time on compact disc, Byard’s Family Man offers a glimpse toward several of the many styles this pianist espoused during his 60-year career as teacher/composer/performer.

Byard wrote the album’s opening tune as a bouncing Major Holley-type swinger. The bassist’s wordless vocals - in unison with bowed upright bass - create a lovely pattern that introduces the session’s family orientation. Two Ellington and Strayhorn piano trio ballads follow that with a setting made for just sitting around the house with nothing else to do on a rainy day. "L.H. Gatewalk" moves from slow rag to traditional stride piano while "Ballad to Louise," housed in a vibraphone/tenor saxophone duet, returns to emotional contemplation. The remainder of the session opts for the piano trio to paint excerpts from Byard’s "Family Suite." Inspirational in both its intentions and methods, Byard’s Family Man makes a welcome addition to the jazz collection.


Track Listing: Just Rollin

Personnel: Jaki Byard- piano, tenor saxophone on "Ballad to Louise," alto saxophone on "Prelude #16 (Time Machine);" Major Holley- bass, Fender bass on "Garr," tuba on "L.H. Gatewalk Rag;" Warren Smith- drums, tympani on "Emil," vibraphone on "Ballad to Louise;" J.R. Mitchell- drums on "Prelude #16," "Gaeta," "Garr" and "John Arthur."

Title: Family Man | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: 32 Records

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