Friday, March 16, 2012

Don Byas - A Night in Tunisia (Black Lion, 1967)

Tenor saxophonist Don Byas was a very important if somewhat neglected figure in jazz - his music as a sideman and as a leader bridged the swing era and bebop and was applicable to either sub-genre of jazz. Moving to Europe after the Second World War, Byas found not only less racism but plentiful opportunities to perform and record. This album is a live recording from The Montmartre Jazzhus in Copenhagen, Denmark on January 13 & 14, 1963, and captures him at the hight of his powers backed by Bent Axen on piano, Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson (still a teenager at this time!) on bass, and William Schiopffe on drums. Byas is strong and supple on saxophone throughout the entire album, playing with great speed and passion on the uptempo bebop standards "a Anthropology" and "A Night in Tunisia." He plays with great facility and and demonstrates a deep understanding of the dynamics of bebop, working hand in hand with his sidemen, leading but never dominating. His ballads are equally beautiful, displaying a bruised brawn that is palpably emotional and romantic. "Lover Man" and "Yesterdays" show him playing with great patience, coaxing the melodic beauty out of these standards. Don Byas truly had his own sound on the tenor saxophone and this album is a prime example of his art. From tough to tender, Byas had to tools to do it all. Night in Tunisia -

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