Jaki Byard

Biography

The influences in pianist Jaki Byard's music span a century of jazz history. Until his death in 1999, he was able to play in classical, Stride, Swing, Bop, Post Bop, and avant-garde styles. He was also a staggeringly versatile composer, writing everything from Bop to classical concertos. Like many a jazz musician, Byard got his start playing in big bands in the 1950s. In 1962, he got his big break, playing piano in what was perhaps Charles Mingus' greatest band, a quintet featuring Eric Dolphy. That same year, he began releasing solo recordings. On Blues for Smoke, he blends European and jazz harmonies and rhythms into a seamless whole. In 1964, Byard released the stunning album Out Front! featuring trumpeter Richard Williams and saxophonist Booker Ervin. Byard recorded in every situation from solo to big band during his forty-year career. He will always be known as the Renaissance man of jazz.
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