For well over a decade, Don Byron has been a singular voice in an astounding range of musical contexts, exploring widely divergent traditions while continually striving for what he calls "a sound above genre." As clarinetist, saxophonist, composer, arranger, and social critic, he redefines every genre of music he plays, be it classical, salsa, hip-hop, funk, rhythm & blues, klezmer, or any jazz style from swing and bop to cutting-edge downtown improvisation. He has been consistently voted best clarinetist by critics and readers alike in leading international music journals since being named "Jazz Artist of the Year" by Down Beat in 1992. Acclaimed as much for his restless creativity as for his unsurpassed virtuosity as a player, Byron has presented a multitude of projects at major music festivals around the world, including recent performances in Vienna, San Francisco, Hong Kong, London, Monterey, New Zealand, and on New York's Broadway.
BEGINNINGS: Born and raised in the Bronx, Byron was exposed to a wide variety of music by his father, who played bass in calypso bands, and his mother, a pianist. His taste was further refined by trips to the symphony and ballet and by many hours spent listening to Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Machito recordings. He formalized his music education by studying classical clarinet with Joe Allard while playing and arranging salsa numbers for high school bands on the side. He later studied with George Russell in the Third Stream Department of the New England Conservatory of Music and, while in Boston, also performed with Latin and jazz ensembles.
COLLABORATIONS: His artistic collaborations include performances and recordings with Mario Bauza, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, John Hicks, Tom Cora, Bill Frisell, Vernon Reid, Marc Ribot, Cassandra Wilson, Hamiet Bluiett, Anthony Braxton, Geri Allen, Hal Willner, Marilyn Crispell, Reggie Workman, Craig Harris, David Murray, Leroy Jenkins, Bobby Previte, Gerry Hemingway, DD Jackson, Douglas Ewart, Brandon Ross, Ed Neumeister, Tom Pierson, Steve Coleman, Living Colour, Ralph Peterson, Uri Caine, Mandy Patinkin, Steve Lacy, the Kansas City All-Stars, the Bang On A Can All-Stars, Medeski Martin & Wood, Angelique Kidjo, Carole King, Daniel Barenboim, Salif Keita, the Atlanta Symphony, Klangforum Wien, Joe Henry, Paul Auster, Meshell Ndegeocello, and many others.
PROJECTS: An integral member of New York's cultural community for almost two decades, Byron has taken part in an extraordinarily wide range of projects. From 1996-99, he served as Artistic Director of Jazz at the Brooklyn Academy of Music where he curated a concert series for the Next Wave Festival and premiered his children's show, Bug Music for Juniors (formerly Tunes and 'Toons). From 2000-05, he was Artist-in-Residence at New York's Symphony Space, where he established is Adventurers Orchestra through another concert series titled Contrasting Brilliance, featuring his takes on music as diverse as Henry Mancini, Sly Stone, the pioneering hip-hop label Sugar Hill Records, Igor Stravinsky, Raymond Scott, Herb Alpert and Earth, Wind and Fire.