Jaki Byard

Changes of Life

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Jaki Byard was in a mellow mood for these sessions recorded in early 1996, two years before his still-unsolved murder. Accompanied by bassist Ralph Hamperian and drummer Richard Allen, this CD emphasizes ballads for the most part. His treatment of "September Song" is especially lyrical, with a few rumbling chords and a tasty bass solo by Hamperian. He shows some of his trademarked playfulness, and a bit of light stride piano in an otherwise meditative interpretation of Duke Ellington's "Solitude." It's hard to top his abstract arrangement of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps," played at a glacier-like tempo, or the haunting beauty of Mal Waldron's "Left Alone." Byard's originals are always of interest. "The Changes of Life" is a bit ominous at first, then quickly segues into a breezy bop setting. Allen introduces "Mandella" with a tribal rhythm, with Hamperian's arco bass and Byard's floating chords gradually working their way in, though the percussion remains central to this miniature. Byard also revisits his extended "Family Suite," which previously appeared in part on Family Man. This hard-to-find Japanese CD, issued by Meldac, can be purchased through www.ejazzlines.com.

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