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Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Music Review - The Jaki Byard Project Hits Brooklyn Lyceum - NYTimes.com
Jaki Byard was a jazz pianist of rumbling mastery, quick humor and sprawling erudition, never as prominent as he should have been, though he was hardly unheralded in his time. Since his death in 1999, his legacy has been burnished by some posthumous live recordings and, no less effectively, by the continuing testimony of his students, several generations of whom he mentored in music schools across the Northeast.
Yard Byard, which also calls itself the Jaki Byard Project, consists almost entirely of musicians who studied with him at the New England Conservatory in Boston. Formed recently by the flutist Jamie Baum with the drummer George Schuller, it features Adam Kolker on clarinets and tenor saxophone, Jerome Harris on guitar and Ugonna Okegwo on bass.
On Wednesday night the group played its third gig, at the Brooklyn Lyceum in Park Slope. (Its fourth is scheduled for later this month in Manhattan.) The music was all Byard’s, played lovingly and a bit loosely, though perhaps not as loosely as it should have been.
Most of the songs in the first set were fine examples of standard form gone just slightly haywire. (About half of them overlapped with the track listing on “The Last From Lennie’s,” a terrific live album from 1965, originally released on Prestige.)
“Strolling Along” had Ms. Baum on alto flute and Mr. Kolker on clarinet, playing its soulful melody in unison; it was during their solos that they flirted with irresolution. “Dolphy” — named after one of Byard’s kindred spirits, the multireedist Eric Dolphy — was more patently unsettled in its tonality, a 12-bar blues with commitment issues. And in the bridge to “Aluminum Baby,” arranged as a rumba of sorts, there was a brief rhythmic hiccup to accompany a restless harmonic turn.