Don Byas

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
78 shellac record by Don Byas
on Savoy Records : "Worried and Blue" (July 28, 1944),
B-side of "Griffin 'And Jivin'"

Don Byas (* 21st October 1912 in Muskogee , Oklahoma as Carlos Wesley Byas ; † 24. August 1972 in Amsterdam ) was a jazz - tenor saxophonist .

The tenor saxophonist Don Byas is considered to be the link and musician in the transition from the Coleman Hawkins School to the innovations of the bebop around Charlie Parker and Lucky Thompson . He started in the big bands of the swing as Andy Kirk and Count Basie . Most remembered is his art of ballad play ( Laura , These Foolish Things ). Due to his long absence from the American jazz scene, he was quickly forgotten.

His life

The early years (1912-1932)

Don Byas grew up in a family of musicians; the mother played the piano, the father the clarinet. The young Don Byas began with classical music, first on the violin, then on the clarinet ( Benny Carter being his idol); he eventually played the alto saxophone until the late 1920s. At the age of 17 he appeared in local bands and led his own formation in the college called Don Carlos & The Collegiate Ramblers (1931–32). During this time he also performed with the Bennie Moten Band, Terrence Holder and Walter Pages Blue Devils .

On the west coast (1932–1937)

Only later - under the influence of Coleman Hawkins - did he switch to the tenor saxophone. In 1932 he went to the West Coast and played with various bands in Los Angeles ; worked in Lionel Hampton's band in the Paradise Club in 1935 with Eddie Barefield and Tyree Glenn , where he made a name for himself as a set player and as a soloist. Byas then played in a number of other bands in California, such as with Buck Clayton in 1936, Lorenzo Flemnoy and Charlie Echols .

In New York (1937-1946)

In 1937 Byas went on tour with Eddie Mallory and his orchestra to New York , where they accompanied Mallory's wife, the singer Ethel Waters , and performed at the New York Cotton Club . Then Don Byas played briefly with Don Redman in 1938 (later again in 1939/40), then with Lucky Millinder and Andy Kirk 1939--1940. From this time comes his first recording, Is This to Be My Souvenir with Timme Rosenkrantz and his Barrelhouse Barons for Victor in May 1938. Byas also played in the bands of Edgar Hayes , Benny Carter , Hot Lips Page and Coleman Hawkins 1940, accompanied the singer Billie Holiday and took part in sessions by pianist Pete Johnson , trumpeter Hot Lips Page and singer Big Joe Turner .

Slam Stewart, photography by William P. Gottlieb

The following three years (January 1941 to the end of 1943) in Count Basie's band (as the successor to Lester Young ) he described as his most important: “The best band I have ever played with. I learned so much from her. ”An early version of Harvard Blues was formed with the Basie Band , recorded on November 17, 1941 as the vocal version of George Frazier's piece sung by Jimmy Rushing . During his time with Basie he also made the pieces Royal Garden Blues and Sugar Blues, and in Hollywood the recordings for the films Reveille with Beverly (August 1942) and Stage Door Canteen (January 1943). The last recordings with Count Basie took place in November 1943.

During this time he met bebop pioneers Charlie Christian , Dizzy Gillespie , Oscar Pettiford and Kenny Clarke , who played in the sessions at the New York jazz club Minton's Playhouse in 1941, the first bebop quintet to hit 52nd Street from New York appeared and existed until the spring of 1944.

After his time in the basie band , Don Byas had his own groups with which he made recordings for the small record labels Savoy , Gotham, Hub, American, Super, National, Super Disc and Jamboree, including the trio with bassist Slam Stewart and the drummer Harold Doc West should be highlighted. Byas played with Slam Stewart in the duo I Got Rhythm and Indiana , recorded in New York on June 9, 1945: The two played there as a break filler at a Town Hall concert and thus stole the show from the stars of the evening: “Your humor and breakneck Vitality, irrepressible drive and imagination ”make the recordings the most important of the outgoing swing.

The pianist Erroll Garner joined his trio in August and Johnny Guarnieri in September . During this time Byas played a variation of How High the Moon , which was soon converted to Ornithology by Benny Harris , and soon became one of Charlie Parker's important bebop pieces . With Parker, Dizzy Gillespie , George Wallington , Oscar Pettiford and Max Roach , groundbreaking recordings were made in the Onyx Club in 1944. Under the name of Coleman Hawkins , a piece was recorded with this line-up that clearly points in the new musical direction: Woody ' n 'You on February 16, 1944. In January 1945, Be-Bop , Good Bait and Salt Peanuts , classics of the early bebop, were created with Dizzy Gillespie for the small label Manor Records.

During this time Don Byas recorded his first record, Laura by David Raksin, the theme song of Otto Preminger's film of the same title from 1944. Byas was to record a remarkable version of this piece again in Geneva in 1947 .

In Europe - Paris (1946–1961)

Finally, after recording sessions for Savoy Records in 1945/46 and an appearance at Esquire All Stars in January 1946 , Don Byas had an engagement in Benny Carter's band in the spring of 1946. In September he left Carter's band and went to Europe and toured with Don Redman's orchestra through France, Denmark, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland. Although he returned to the USA in the course of the year to record with Savoy Records and Gotham , from now on he relocated the center of his life (after a few stops in Belgium and Spain) to France. Due to his absence from the New York jazz scene from this time on, Byas no longer played a significant role in the new developments in modern jazz . Even if he saw himself as one of the main creators of bebop , his contribution to it is rather marginal.

As early as December 1946, Byas recorded for the Swing label for the first time in France, with Don Redman, Tyree Glenn and Peanuts Holland . In Geneva he played again his 1944 hit, the ballad Laura , and How High The Moon (with a typical bebop entrance arrangement). In 1947 he recorded with Eddie Barclay in Paris for the jazz label Swing and Blue Star. At that time Laura , one of Byas' most important pieces and a classic example of his ballad art, was recorded again, as was the jazz standard These Foolish Things from 1944, which he interpreted . Byas moved to Barcelona between 1947 and 1948 , partly because of the cheaper cost of living, partly because of the stimulating atmosphere. During this time he performed with the local bands of Bernard Hilda, Francisco Sanchez Ortega and Luis Rovira. From 1948, Byas stayed mainly in the Paris district of St. Germain-des-Prés , but also in the seaside resort of Saint Tropez . In 1949 he performed at the Paris Jazz Festival in the Salle Pleyel with the band of Hot Lips Page . From 1952 to 1954 the pianist Mary Lou Williams settled in Paris; the two had played together in Andy Kirk's band in 1939/40 and are now recording a record for the jazz label Vogue. In 1954 recordings were made with the pianist Beryl Booker .

In Europe - Amsterdam (1961–1972)

After his stay in St. Tropez and Paris, Don Byas settled in the Netherlands, where he married a young Dutch woman and made many records with European musicians and American guests or went on tours with them, such as Art Blakey and Kenny Clarke , Dizzy Gillespie , Jazz At The Philharmonic , Bud Powell and Ben Webster . In 1950 he took part in a European tour with Duke Ellington , and in 1963 he made recordings with Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and Bent Axen , but these only offer a tired reflection of his earlier creative powers. In 1965 he had another appearance at the Berlin Jazz Festival , in 1968 he recorded a record with Ben Webster, in 1971 - after a few guest appearances in the USA in 1970, where he appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival - he traveled to Japan with Art Blakey . In the Ronnie Scott's Club in London , some remarkable live recordings were made with the pianist Stan Tracey . In 1971 Byas took part in a workshop by George Gruntz as part of the Zurich Jazz Festival. Don Byas died of lung cancer in Amsterdam in 1972 .

His music

Although Don Byas was connected to bebop , he always remained deeply rooted in swing . Although he began his career strongly in the wake of Coleman Hawkins , he himself named the pianist Art Tatum as his greatest influence : "I have no style, I just play like Art."

Don Byas is one of the major soloists of the Coleman Hawkins tradition and is also partly influenced by the basie tenorist Herschel Evans . However, he led Hawkins' more ornamental phrasing further to a smoother and more familiar expression, which may in part also go back to Benny Carter . This - like Carter - pairing of lyricism and elegance as well as his technical mastery had to appear exemplary to the romantics of the saxophone, to whom Hawkins' pupils sounded too rough and rabid and Lester Young too cautious.

His appearances with the players on 52nd Street in New York expanded his musical spectrum; He transferred the innovations of bebop to the solo practice of the then modern small band or big band - swing . Don Byas had a great influence on the next generation of tenor saxophonists around Lucky Thompson , Paul Gonsalves , Benny Golson , Johnny Griffin and Guy Lafitte in France. Though adroit at fast tempos, he developed his true mastery in ballad play. Byas later also integrated influences from the generation of Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane into his playing, but always stuck to a certain limit: "If you can't tap on it with your foot, it's not jazz."


Don Byas all-stars "Pennies from Heaven" on Jamboree Records

Important pieces

  • Count Basie: Harvard Blues (1941), Bugle Blues and Sugar Blues (1942)
  • Coleman Hawkins: Three Little Words (first solo) (1944)
  • Dizzy Gillespie: A Night in Tunisia (1946)
  • Esquire All Stars: Gone With The Wind (1946)

Recordings under your own name:

  • These Foolish Things , What Do You Want With My Heart (1944)
  • Pennies From Heaven, Jamboree Jump, I Got Rhythm, Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams , Harvard Blues, Indiana (duo with Slam Stewart) (1945)
  • Laura (1947)

Important record releases

Don Byas All-Stars "Should I" on Jamboree Records

The record work by Don Byas up to 1947 (leader and sideman recordings) is published by Classics . There are:

  • Don Byas 1944–1945 (with Charlie Shavers , Johnny Guarnieri , Clyde Hart , John Levy , Slam Stewart, Billy Taylor and the singer Big Bill Broonzy ),
  • Charlie Perker & Dizzy Gillespie : Town Hall, New York City, June 22, 1945
  • Don Byas 1945 (with Buck Clayton , Dizzy Gillespie, Johnny Guarnieri, Eddie Safranski ),
  • Don Byas 1945, Volume 2 (with Benny Harris, Erroll Garner, Milt Hinton, Slam Stewart, Harold Doc West),
  • Don Byas 1946 (with Tyree Glenn , Peanuts Holland , Hubert Rostaing , Billy Taylor, Max Roach),
  • Don Byas 1947 (dto.)
  • A useful compilation - especially from the Parisian years - has also been published by Dreyfus Jazz ( Laura ).
  • The recordings from around 1944/45 are summarized on the CD The Complete American Small Group Recordings (2001).
  • Charlie Christian: Jazz Immortal (OJC, 1941) resp.
  • Don Byas: Midnight At Minton’s (High Note, 1941) recorded at Minton's Playhouse, with Thelonious Monk, Kenny Clarke, Joe Guy u. a.
  • Savoy Jam Party - The Savoy Sessions (1944-46) with the Don Byas Quintet (Charlie Shavers (tp), Clyde Hart (p), Slam Stewart (b), Jack Parker (dr) or sextet additionally: Rudy Williams (as )
  • Don Byas: Commodore Classics - Ben Webster / Don Byas (1945) includes Indiana, I Got Rhythm - duet with Slam Stewart and DB-Trio with Teddy Wilson (p), Slam Stewart (b): Candy; June 9, 1945
  • Don Byas - George Johnson: Those Barcelona Days 1947–1948 (Fresh Sound Records)
  • Don Byas: Jazz In Paris - Don Byas: Laura (Emarcy, 1950–52)
  • Don Byas: featuring Mary Lou Williams Trio & Beryl Booker Trio (Vogue, 1953–55, Paris)
  • Don Byas: Autumn Leaves (Ronnie Scott's Jazz House, 1965)
  • Don Byas & Ben Webster: Ben Webster Meets Don Byas (1968)

Recordings as a sideman (selection)

  • Benny Carter: 1943–1946 (Classics)
  • Buck Clayton: Buck Special (Vogue, 1949–1952)
  • Dizzy Gillespie: 1945 (Classics), 1945–1946 (Classics), The Complete RCA Victor Sessions (Bluebird, 1937–49), Cognac Blues (Emarcy, 1949/1953)
  • Roy Eldridge: Cooking (Vogue, 19590-1951)
  • Johnny Guarnieri: 1944-1946 (Classics)
  • Coleman Hawkins: The Complete Coleman Hawkins (Mercury, 1944), Rainbow Mist (Delmark, 1944), Bean Stalkin ' (Pablo, 1960)
  • Billie Holiday: The Quintessential Billie Holiday Volume 8 (Columbia, 1939-1940)
  • Pete Johnson: 1939-1941 (Classics)
  • Andy Kirk: 1939–1940 (Classics)
  • James Moody: 1948–1949 (Classics)
  • Bud Powell: A Tribute To Cannonball (Columbia, 1961)
  • Sarah Vaughan: 1944–1946 (Classics)
  • Teddy Wilson: 1946 (Classics)

Literature and Sources

Web links


  1. During his time with Andy Kirk, the recording You Set Me on Fire was made in September 1940 , with a short solo by Don Byas.
  2. During this session by Billie Holiday & Teddy Wilson and his Orchestra on December 9, 1940, the titles Practice Makes Perfect, It's The Same Old Story, I Hear Music, I'm All For You
  3. cit. according to Kunzler: Jazzlexikon, p. 182.
  4. recorded on July 24, 1942 with a small cast with Buck Clayton , Basie, Freddie Green, Walter Page, Jo Jones
  5. CD: Midnight At Mintons ; These recordings were recorded on tape by the young student Jerry Newman, who went to the clubs for his own pleasure and recorded hours of music and only released on the label Onyx Records in the 1970s , zit. after Morton / Cook 2001, p. 211
  6. These are now included on the CDs: Don Byas 1944-45 and Don Byas 1945 ( Classics ); See Morton / Cook, 2001, p. 231
  7. after M. Woelfle / Rondo magazine: Review of the CD Laura
  8. with Don Byas, Erroll Garner, Slam Stewart (b), Harold Doc West (dr), NY, August 30, 1945
  9. with Slam Stewart and JC Heard (dr) on September 6, 1945, with Al Hall (b), and Sidney Catlett (dr) on September 12, 1945
  10. During this Hawkins session, Bu-Dee-Daht-Apollo and Yesterdays , six days later Disorder at the Border, Feeling Zero, Rainbow Mist were recorded.
  11. The last bebop recordings with Dizzy Gillespie are 52nd Street Theme and A Night in Tunisia , from February 22, 1946
  12. According to Kunzler, Jazzlexikon, p. 183
  13. To be found on Don Byas 1947 (Classics)
  14. Now available as CD on Don Byas 1947 (Classics) and Laura (Dreyfus, 1947) after Morton / Cook, 2002, p. 232
  15. Don Byas Re-Boppers , with DB, Peanuts Holland (tb), Billy Taylor (p), Jean-Jacques Tiché (as), Jean Bouchety (b), Buford Oliver (dr), Paris, January 27, 1947
  16. A declaration of love for this part of town is Byas' composition of the same name, recorded on April 14, 1950 by DB with Johnny Hodges and his orchestra.
  17. Where he was also active as a sporty diver and angler and showed his skills in the pool billiards.
  18. With Hot Lips Page (tp, voc), Bernard Peiffer (p), Roger Paraboschi (dr), Jean Bouchéty (b), Big Chief Moore (tb), George Johnson (as). "They play music in the style of the 1930s in the style of good old Jump", zit. based on Boris Vian: Pride and Prejudice, Jazz Critics, p. 108
  19. Duke Ellington introduced DB (at the concert in Hamburg, June 10, 1950) with the ballad How High The Moon, published on Don Byas: Musica Jazz MJCD 1088 (publ. 1991)
  20. A Night In Tunisia (Black Lion) or Walkin ' (Black Lion)
  21. Morton and Cook only highlight the tracks All The Things You Are and Billie's Bounce , otherwise its broad, chocolatey tone has gotten a sour corner and there is a feeling of tiredness that disappoints all those who look at his material from the 1940s can remember quote. Morton & Cook, 232
  22. This resulted in some big band recordings, in which Don Byas played in the title The Age of Prominence (by Flavio Ambrosetti ) (other musicians are Franco Ambrosetti , Dusko Goykovich , Heinz Bigler , Dexter Gordon , GG, Isla Eckinger ); published on George Gruntz: The MPS Years. This title should be one of DB's last recordings
  23. cit. according to Marcus A. Woelfle, Rondo-Magazin
  24. cit. according to Kunzler, p. 183.