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Jazz in Pais: Laura

Don Byas

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Album Review

Don Byas was a giant of the tenor sax, though his accomplishments were all but overlooked in his native land once he moved to Europe for good. This CD from Universal Music's Jazz in Paris series compiles three separate studio sessions from the early '50s, all with different rhythm sections. Most of the tracks are standard ballads, featuring the leader throughout. His expressive take of "Laura" shows off a big tone with a bit of vibrato much like Ben Webster in his later years. The one original is his snappy "Riviera Blues," a lively number likely improvised on the spot. Had he remained in the U.S., it is possible that Don Byas might have been ranked along with Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, and Ben Webster in the top echelon of tenor saxophonists, so anyone unfamiliar with his work should seek out this very affordable collection.

Biography

Born: 21 October 1912 in Muskogee, OK

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s

One of the greatest of all tenor players, Don Byas' decision to move permanently to Europe in 1946 resulted in him being vastly underrated in jazz history books. His knowledge of chords rivalled Coleman Hawkins, and, due to their similarity in tones, Byas can be considered an extension of the elder tenor. He played with many top swing bands, including those of Lionel Hampton (1935), Buck Clayton (1936), Don Redman, Lucky Millinder, Andy Kirk (1939-1940), and most importantly Count Basie (1941-1943)....
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