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Warren Byrd

Pianist / vocalist / composer Warren Byrd is a Hartford native with an international touring schedule after many fruitful years playing Jazz throughout Connecticut, Southern New England, and New York.

Early Years: He’s youngest in a family of music lovers. Showing talent early on, he was encouraged to perform, singing in the Gospel choir at age 4. Also, he was nurtured to love big band jazz early. Would pursue a Theatre career starting at age 14 and had amassed extensive performing credits throughout his teen years. He began composing music at about age 11. Grew into a passion for bebop jazz, especially the music of Charlie Parker, Oscar Peterson. Studied Jazz Piano and Music Theory notably with Thomassina Neely, Music Director of Warburton Community Church and R. Leslie Childs Music Teacher at South Catholic High School. Several consecutive summers in the Hartford Stage Company Summer Youth Theatre exposed him to fine musicianship in the aegis of John Johnson, Ed DeGroat, and Stephen Barnicle leading to a curiosity for 20th century classical music, especially Stravinsky. By high school graduation 1983, he’d earn a full scholarship for Classical Voice at Hartt College of Music. He would soon leave to forge his own studies of Composition, Theory, and Jazz Piano.

Formative Developmental Period: 1983 to 1989 were spent in toil, frustration, and study. He listened and read as much as possible seeking the artistic wisdom. He’d focused on jazz history and developed a deep respect for the work of Ellington & Strayhorn, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Igor Stravinsky, culling his compositional voice. Many of his Hartford, Connecticut theatre ties were still strong. He worked with The Hartford Contemporary Dance Ensemble as their principal accompanist. He’d create improvisational soundscapes with the Performing Ensemble(formerly the Operation Push Performing Ensemble) as well as recite poetry and act in their productions. His musical career began to take hold in 1987 working with Flautist Rick Brown. He created the music appreciation Wednesdays at Center for Youth and Community Resources Summer Camp 1988. He co- formed the McGhee/Byrd Duo to concentrate on the works of Ellington, Strayhorn, Mingus, and other contemporary jazz artists. He began directing a youth choir and an adult choir at Shiloh Baptist Church in Hartford for whom he would arrange pieces, compose, and teach. He began frequenting the local jam sessions and meeting other jazz musicians. Soon he’d become a full-time Hartford-based freelance musician

Professional Developmental Period: 1990 to 2002 were years of honing his musicianship, deepening his ties, and managing the first wave of reaping. He became known as one of the busiest, most versatile musicians in Hartford county. Highlights of the period would be:Associations with groups promoting original works: Nubian Nation(urban/jazz hybrid)1991to 1993; Espada(latin/funk/jazz)1989, 1993-1996; Mike DiRubbo Quartet(straight-ahead jazz); The Explorers Quintet(with Trombonist Steve Davis, straight-ahead jazz); Mixashawn Quartet(with Lee Rozie reeds, etc “Omni-pop”avant-garde jazz) to name a few.He’d amass a huge list of prominent jazz figures with whom he’d earn sideman credits, a short list of whom would be Eddie Henderson, Archie Shepp, Javon Jackson, J.D. Parran, Houston Person, Rosanne Vitro, and of course, Hartford’s native luminaries such as Paul Brown, Nat Reeves, Mario Pavone, and trombonist Steve Davis (Thelonious Monk Tribute in 1994 would stick with him and comparsions throughout his career to Monk would ever shadow him hence). Dance accompaniment would be a for him a consistent source of joy and inspiration, playing classes for the Greater Hartford Academy of the Performing Arts from 1990 September and within a ten-year span expanded to playing of the School of the Hartford Ballet(1995-1999), Hartford Camerata Conservatory(1993-1998), Trinity College(1999-2001), and first-call accompanist for many master classes in dance. Also composed pieces such as "Four Pieces for Dance" for Susan Palmer’s Footnotes Dance Company also for the Fuller Dance Company collaborating with Justine Fuller in many settings.. He also performed scores for and composed pieces and soundscapes for many other dance troupes and choreographers including Judy Dworin, Avis Hatcher, David Dorfman, Peggy Lyman, Alvin Ailey touring Company, and many others.Composed incidental music for Hartford Children’s Theatre productions of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe(1990); The Secret Garden(1992); and the Arkansas Bear(1993)In 1996, he began working with David Chevan, then an associate professor of music at Southern Connecticut State University, that would lead to their co-founding of the Afro-Semitic Experience in 1998.During this period he also performed on many recordings with some of the aforementioned artists and bands such as The Moon Knows with The Explorers Quintet (Brownstone 1994) also New Terrain(1997); participated in WWUH’s Jazz in the Wilde as a solo pianist(1995); and recorded the first of several albums with David Chevan and the Afro-Semitic Experience with Avadim Hayinu: Once We Were Slaves(Reckless 1998). He produced his first album in 1999, Truth Raised Twice(Byrdspeak Productions, released in April 2000)He was placed in the top 25 of the 1999 Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition.Nominated for Advocate’s Best of Hartford in the Keyboard category 8 timesin 1999, David Chevan and he expanded their duo to form the celebrated group the Afro-Semitic Experience and recorded their second CD This Is the Afro- Semitic Experience(Reckless 2000)Also in 1999, he formed his band The Warren Byrd Group. They would appear in festivals and venues around Southern New England as well as accompanying visiting artists. They also appeared as a guest artist with New Haven Community Symphony conducted by Gordon Emerson in a rendition of Bach Meets Blues, a concerto for piano trio and orchestra. In February 2001, he works as a sideman for Saskia Laroo, jazz trumpet player from the Netherlands. Impressed by his playing, she requests his services as pianist/keyboardist for her next appearance in Connecticut in June of that year. This began their ten-year and current association.

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Album Review

Warren Byrd/David Chevan: This Is The Afro-Semitic Experience

Read "This Is The Afro-Semitic Experience" reviewed by Mark Corroto

This Is The Afro-Semitic Experience, well maybe and I then ask where do you file it? Jazz? Jewish music? Or perhaps Gospel/Klezmer/Nigunim/Spiritual/Swing? I prefer under Duke Ellington’s good music/bad music categorization.

This project of bassist David Chevan and pianist Warren Byrd brings together the musical traditions of Jewish-Americans and African-Americans to create a sacred music that would be to Mr. Ellington’s liking. Chevan and Byrd have collaborated before along these lines on the 2000 duo Let Us ...

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Reckless DC Music Releases: This Is The Afro-Semitic Experience by Warren Byrd and David Chevan

Reckless DC Music Releases: This Is The Afro-Semitic Experience by Warren Byrd and David Chevan

Source: All About Jazz

“The Byrd/Chevan alliance becomes all the more provocative.... and essential. Reflecting the spirit of this ensemble, the music is an alchemist's brew of traditional Jewish songs, pieces by African and African- American artists, and Chevan compositions or arrangements . . . a recording rich with the spirit of shared experiences and true brotherhood in its execution, noble and thought provoking in its construction" --Willard Jenkins, from the liner notes

African-American pianist Warren Byrd and Jewish-American bassist David Chevan continue their ...



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