Chris Byars was born in New York City on Nov. 2, 1970 into a family of Juilliard-trained musicians. The artistic resources of NYC were made accessible to the youngster, who soon found himself in musical situations with the top talents of the world. Throughout his childhood, he was granted private study with the great teachers in the area, devoting much effort to learning drums, voice, saxophone, musicianship and ballet technique. From age 6 to 14, Chris enjoyed a successful career as an opera singer, performing, touring, and appearing on television with the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera and New York City Ballet. At age 14 he devoted himself exclusively to the idiom of jazz.
In the next ten years Byars undertook a period of apprenticeship that transformed him from a jazz novice into a fully functioning jazz composer, arranger and multi- instrumentalist. A Bachelor's and Master's Degree were earned from Manhattan School of Music, but perhaps the most impact was gained by 2 years of intensive private study with musicianship guru Helen Jordan.
In 1994 he began a nine-year run of steady engagements at the Greenwich Village “cutting-edge jazz club” Smalls, appearing on average twice weekly with jazz legends Frank Hewitt and Jimmy Lovelace. This decade of late-night gigs saw the birth of two bands: the quintet Across 7 Street (co-led by bassist Ari Roland) and The Chris Byars Octet. Both have recorded with the indie label Smalls Records to great critical acclaim.
As a small group leader, Byars is releasing his first offering, Photos in Black, White and Gray (Smalls Records) on March 13, 2007. Byars is heard on alto, tenor and soprano saxophones, performing exclusively original material. The CD release party is at Joe's Pub, March 28th. Byars was selected to represent the U.S. Department of State as a cultural ambassador, performing in the former Soviet Republics of Kazahkstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikstan and Kyrgyztan in April/ May 2007. Upon his return, he will begin presenting his award-winning educational program "Basheer's Dream: The Music of Gigi Gryce Returns to the Bronx" with Across 7 Street.
Chris Byars lives in the Riverdale section of the Bronx with his very supportive wife Sarah, and wonderful children Anna (5 years old) and John (13 months).