Don Byas

Although never as famous as Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Ben Webster, and Illinois Jacquet, Don Byas ranked at the top with them among tenor-saxophonists of the 1940s. Born in 1912, he was featured with many big bands during the 1930s. Byas was Lester Young’s replacement with the Count Basie Orchestra during 1941-44. His big tone and harmonically sophisticated ideas showed the influence of Hawkins, but Byas developed into a more modern player who was open to the ideas of bebop. He led a series of brilliant combo recordings during 1944-46. However his decision to move to Europe in 1946, only returning to the U.S. for one short visit before his death in 1973, meant that Byas would never become famous among American jazz fans.

However Byas was often in superb form during his European years. On this CD, he is featured on three sessions from 1953-55. Six songs team him with pianist Mary Lou Williams in a quartet and he is also showcased with the Beryl Booker Trio and in a French quintet. Whether performing originals by Williams and Booker or standards, Byas is in top form. He displays a warm tone on ballads while his double-time runs on the faster material are very impressive. This CD gives today’s listeners an opportunity to discover the musical brilliance of Don Byas.

SKU: IC7018

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Additional Info

Additional Info

Format: Jazz Record
Soloist/Artist Don Byas
Instruments Music and Musicians
Composer No
Accompanist/ Conductor Mary Lou Williams, Beryl Booker, Bonnie Wetzel, Dave Pochenet, Maurice Vander, and Fats Sadi.
SKU IC7018


Customer Reviews (4)

Don ByasReview by Simon Sez
Even most jazz listeners of today, when confronted with the name Don Byas, might very well ask “Don Who?” One of the great tenors of the 1940s, a time when swing was morphing into bebop, Byas was almost completely forgotten in the United States after he permanently moved to Europe in 1946. The world was a much bigger place in those days, and once Byas left town, he became a legend of the past even though he was still creating very good music overseas. It was as if he had left the planet altogether.
That was a real pity for with his big Coleman Hawkins-type tone and his very fluent playing, Byas was a giant. On this Inner City CD, he is in the spotlight during 1953-55, playing with such notables as pianists Mary Lou Williams and Beryl Booker. While Byas is warm on ballads, he really rips his way through the faster material, almost recalling Lew Tabackin. You can almost imagine the smoke coming out of his horn when he played double-time runs!

Simon Sez: Don Byas (IC7018) features the great if forgotten tenor in the 1950s, ripping through uptempo numbers and melting hearts on the ballads.
(Posted on 5/6/2014)
Review by Anonymous
This album is a wonderful look at Byas' creativity and style. Recorded in the '50s in Paris, it features his old friend Mary Lou Williams, along with a host of excellent musicians including Beryl Booker, Bonnie Wetzel, Gerard Pochenet, Maurice Vander, and Fats Sadi. An album no jazz fan will want to be without! (Posted on 6/14/2013)
Review by Michael G. Nastos
The variety of this program makes it interesting, and as very few recordings of Don Byas are available since he left the U. S., this makes it a valuable commodity, to be purchased but not traded. It also reinforces his unquestioned grand legacy with an extraordinary performance. For better or worse, unfortunately, Byas remains the most underrated or even unappreciated tenor saxophonist to span the gap from swing to big bands to bop. ~ (Posted on 6/14/2013)
Review by Mike L. - New York
These three separate sessions recorded in Paris between 1953 and 1955 show Byas as well-developed in the bebop mode, teamed with Mary Lou Williams, Beryl Booker, or Fats Sadi/Maurice Vander-led combos, respectively. The vocal, lyrical quality of Byas is present and accounted for on these well-recorded, fairly brief tracks that span an interesting expanse of swinging jazz that could hardly be called conservative, and is not to be taken lightly.
(Posted on 6/14/2013)

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