Jaki Byard

A Matter of Black and White

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Jaki Byard was a one-of-a-kind, a jazz musician who was immersed in the history of jazz and could easily intermingle contrasting styles, not only in the midst of a performance, but an individual tune. Although he recorded several solo albums, nearly all of them were studio sessions. This compilation is a bit different, as it consists of solo performances taken from several different trio sets at the long defunct Keystone Korner in San Francisco between 1978 and 1979. Fans of Byard will be very familiar with his approach to many of these selections, which appeared on his solo piano studio records. A number of them don't differ substantially from their earlier versions, though that doesn't make them any less enjoyable, since many of Byard's solo recordings are out of print or hard-to-find imports. He made "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?" his own with his unique mixture of nostalgia, love for the city, and humor, inserting a few rapid-fire runs in the process. Like the previous song, "Hello, Young Lovers" was also recorded for his Prestige Solo Piano album and Byard included it as well in his performing repertoire for the rest of his life. He starts this Rodgers & Hammerstein ballad slowly, switching to a rollicking atmosphere that could be no one but him. His interpretation of "'Round Midnight" intersperses flashy runs and unusual voicings. The pianist had a great love for the music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, so his closing medley of three gems from their vast portfolio is the perfect finale to this rewarding solo showcase of the late, great Jaki Byard.

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