Archive for Jaki Byard

How Time Passes

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , on February 15, 2017 by telescoper

I don’t seem to have had much time recently to post any lengthy pieces about music, and today is no exception, but I couldn’t resist sharing this fascinating title track from the album How Time Passes which was recorded in New York City in October 1960. It features Don Ellis on trumpet and  Jaki Byard on piano (with Ellis doubling on piano sometimes to allow Byard to play saxophones) along with Ron Carter on bass and Charlie Persip on drums. The album is a fascinating collection of modern jazz performances informed by  contemporary classical music, a blend that came to be known as Third Stream. This track is particularly unusual because of its elastic approach to tempo – it is constantly speeding up and slowing down in a way that makes you wonder how the band stays together – but it also features some beautiful work on trumpet by Don Ellis.


P.S. As well as being a superb jazz musician, Don Ellis was also a fine composer. Among other things he wrote the theme music for the film The French Connection. Not a lot of people know that.




Posted in Jazz with tags , , on March 6, 2011 by telescoper

I’m aware that I still haven’t posted a follow-up to my introductory article about Bayesian Evidence, so I apologize to those of you out there that thought this was going to be it! In fact I’m just a bit too easy with other writing tasks at the moment to tackle that, but will get around to it as soon as I can. Yesterday’s post was about a kind of Evidence too.

Today I thought I’d post about yet another form of Evidence, i.e. the number of the same name by the great Thelonious Monk. Here it’s played by the Jaki Byard quartet of the 1960s, starring the wondrous Roland Kirk (in pre-Rahsaan days) who plays tenor saxophone on this track. It’s a typically eccentric composition by Monk, with characteristically fractured melodic lines and stop-start rhythms, but integrating over the parameter space defined by the chord changes, I think the best explanatory model for it is that it’s a “variation” on the jazz standard Just You, Just Me, although “variation” in this case doesn’t really describe the drastic nature of the overhaul. Anyway, Roland Kirk certainly doesn’t get lost in Monk’s labyrinth – his playing on this track is simply phenomenal. Listen to the staggering speed and originality of his improvisation during the first couple of minutes and I’m sure you’ll be wondering,  as I did, where and how he managed to breathe!


Shine on me

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on December 22, 2010 by telescoper

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.