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Exploring the Jazz Piano of Jaki Byard – One Two Five…..

So yesterday I had some office work to do, typing the soil logs for the test pits that were excavated on Thursday. Since I need to One Two Fivestay focused while I complete the logs, the soundtrack for the morning became jazz. There are two jazz albums on the iPhone that I’ve been listening to over the last few weeks, so they became the soundtrack! The first was an album titled One, Two Five from Jaki Byard and the second Why? from former rock drummer Ginger Baker.

The current release from Jaki Byard is titled The Late Show at it’s currently No 36 on the JazzWeek Chart. (August 25, 2014)  Since I never have heard of Jaki Byard I first went to Spotify to have a listen. Typically, after listening I then go and read about the artist. The Late Show was not at Spotify the latest album that was there was an album titled One Two Five (2014).That album went on the iPhone and what I found was some really fine and interesting solo piano. This morning I went to Wikipedia and then several other sites and this is what I found out about Jaki Byard…… (once again I prove that I have a LOT to learn about jazz) Jaki Byard in his brief biography at Amazon is described as  ” Art Tatum, Earl Hines, Bud Powell, Ran Blake, Cecil Taylor and Bill Evans, all in one”. From Wikipedia…..

John Arthur “Jaki” Byard (June 15, 1922 – February 11, 1999) was an American jazz pianist, composer and arranger Jaki Byardwho also played tenor and alto saxophones, among several other instruments. He was known for his eclectic style, incorporating everything from ragtime and stride to free jazz.

Byard played with Maynard Ferguson in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and was a member of bands led by Charles Mingus for several years, including on several studio and concert recordings. The first of his recordings as a leader was in 1960, but, despite being praised by critics, his albums and performances did not gain him much wider attention. In his 60-year career, Byard recorded at least 35 albums as leader, and more than 50 as a sideman. Byard’s influence on the music comes from his combining of musical styles during performance, and his parallel career in teaching.

From 1969 Byard was heavily involved in jazz education: he began teaching at the New England Conservatory and went on to work at several other music institutions, as well as having private students. He continued performing and recording, mainly in solo and small group settings, but he also led two big bands – one made up of some of his students, and the other of professional musicians…. Read More

Here’s some information about his playing style…..

…Giddins described the nature of Byard’s piano playing: “His tone […] is unfailingly bright. His middle-register improvisations are evenly articulated with a strong touch and rhythmic elan [… he] likes ringing tremolos and portentous fifths [… and] barely articulated keyboard washes that float beyond the harmonic bounds but are ultimately anchored by the blues”.[37] Byard played in a variety of styles, often mixed together in one performance: John S. Wilson commented that Byard “progresses from a basic melodic statement to nimble Art Tatum fingering to Fats Waller stride, to prickly Thelonious Monk phrases, to Cecil Taylor dissonances”.[38] This could have deliberately comic, surrealistic effect

Finally, here’s a link about Jaki from NPR: Jaki Byard, A Post-Bebop Pianist Who Was A Master Of Stride Piano

The sad part of the story is Byard’s death….

Byard died in his home in Hollis, Queens, New York City, of a gunshot wound on February 11, 1999.[35] He was shot once in the head.[35] The police reported that Byard’s family, with whom he shared the house, last saw him at 6 pm, that he was killed around 10 pm, that there “were no signs of robbery, forced entry or a struggle”, and that no weapon was found.[35] The death was soon declared to be a homicide,[36] but the circumstances surrounding it have not been determined, and the case remains unsolved.

The album One Two Five appears to be a reissue or maybe a remastering of Byard’s first release Blues for Smoke, which was and is a really fine album. I spent this morning listening to tracks from other release and I like what I heard so I think in the future Jaki’s music needs to be explored more fully! So check it out!!
Ginger I haven’t forgotten you,I will get to Why? a little later…..


Here’s “Mellow Septet” from the 1961 release Here’s Jaki with Ron Carter on bass and Roy Haynes on drums