Shine on me

Pianist Jaki Byard was one of the most consistently original musicians of his jazz generation, but he was also consistently underrated. His eclectic style embraced the avant garde free jazz of the 60s and 70s as well as traditional gospel and folk music. Whatever he played, though, it definitely sounded exactly like Jaki Byard. Anyway, in 1968 he teamed up with the extraordinarily talented multi-instrumentalist Roland Kirk to record a typically varied selection of music, including this one which has been a favourite of mine since I first heard it on the radio about 30 years ago. It’s one of the most played tracks on my iPod, and it never fails to bring a smile to my face even when I’m stuck on stationary train feeling miserable.

Shine on me is attributed to that most prolific of all composers, Trad. It’s a theme that turns up in a few very early jazz recordings, but I think it began life as a gospel song way back in the mists of time. In this version, though, it’s given a foot-tapping beat which is just so very nineteen-sixties. Roland Kirk’s decision to start the piece on clarinet was truly inspired, and you can tell that all four musicians had a blast playing this. I suppose it’s a sort of parody, but it’s an affectionate one.

Finally, let me mention the drummer Alan Dawson, whose playing is based around a sort of half-funk half-boogie, but with all kinds of polyrythmic stuff on on top; he drives this along like the clappers and makes it such a joy to listen to.


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