Don Byron

No-Vibe Zone: Live at Knitting Factory

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Don Byron is the quintessential clarinetist of the modern mainstream, and this is a tolerably good example of his work as an improvisor, composer, and bandleader. Byron swings and grooves well in a conventional sense, yet his slippery phrasing runs clear of rhythmic cliché. His tone is clear and pure, as well, but what's even more important than his considerable instrumental skill is the manifest originality and inspiration that drives his art. Byron's tendency to quote other musics and musicians is a bit off-putting, but such appropriation is an aspect of the jazz tradition that Byron embraces convincingly and creatively. His bandmates operate on a similarly high level. Guitarist David Gilmore is an intelligent and very exciting player, possessing an inherently lyrical approach that's compromised a bit by forays into heavy metal timbres. Drummer Marvin "Smitty" Smith has a comprehensive technique, and sets incredible grooves, but tends to overplay in the ensemble. Pianist Uri Caine is a versatile, resourceful accompanist and soloist, as is bassist Kenny Davis. A strong, loose, exciting performance by one of straightahead jazz's most able exponents.

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