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Don Byron Biography

Don Byron Tickets

Don Byron In-depth Biography

An inspired eclectic, Byron} has performed an array of musical styles with great success. Byron} first attained a measure of notoriety for playing Klezmer, specifically the music of the late Mickey Katz}. While the novelty of a black man playing Jewish music was enough to grab the attention of critics, it was Byron}'s jazz}-related work that ultimately made him a major figure. Byron} is an exceptional clarinetist from a technical perspective; he also possesses a profound imagination that best manifests itself in his multifarious compositions. At heart, Byron} is a conceptualist. Each succeeding album seems based on a different stylistic approach, from the free jazz}/classical leanings of his first album, Tuskegee Experiments} (Nonesuch}, 1992), to the hip-hop/funk of Nu Blaxpoitation} (Blue Note}, 1998). Byron}'s composition "There Goes the Neighborhood" was commissioned by the Kronos Quartet} and premiered in London in 1994. He's also composed for silent film, served as the director of jazz} for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and scored for television. Byron} was born and raised in New York City, the son of a mailman who also occasionally played bass in calypso bands, and a mother who dabbled on piano. As a child, Byron} developed asthma; his doctor suggested he take up a wind instrument as therapy. Byron} chose clarinet. His South Bronx neighborhood had a sizeable Jewish population, which partly explains his fascination with Klezmer. Byron} was encouraged by his parents to learn about all different kinds of music, from Leonard Bernstein} to Dizzy Gillespie}. Byron}'s models on clarinet included Tony Scott}, Artie Shaw}, and especially Jimmy Hamilton}. As an improviser, Joe Henderson} was a prominent influence. As a teenager, Byron} studied clarinet with Joe Allard}. Byron} attended the New England Conservatory of Music, where he studied with George Russell}. While at NEC, Byron} was recruited to play in Hankus Netsky}'s Klezmer Conservatory Band}. Byron} moved from Boston back to New York in the mid-'80s, where he began playing with several of the city's more prominent jazz} avant-gardists, including David Murray}, Craig Harris}, and Hamiet Bluiett}. A year after recording Tuskegee Experiments}, Byron} made Plays the Music of Mickey Katz}(Nonesuch}), which put something of an end to his Klezmer career (at least in terms of recording). Byron}'s career built steadily over the course of the '90s. By the end of the decade he had signed with Blue Note} records. While hardly a radical, Byron} is an original voice within the bounds of whatever style he happens to embrace. ~ Chris Kelsey, All Music Guide

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