Chris Byars’ Tributes to the Greats

Since 2002, it has been a pleasure to collaborate with the New York City-based saxophonist/arranger/composer Chris Byars on a variety of projects involving the legacies of jazz innovators worthy of greater recognition. With the recent (January 2017) release of his Frank Strozier tribute, he has now recorded six such albums, all of which are mandatory listening if you enjoy old wine in new bottles. Listed below, they are all highly recommended!

The Music of Frank Strozier (2017)

The Music of Duke Jordan (2014)

Music Forever (2012) [Freddie Redd]

Lucky Strikes Again (2011) [Lucky Thompson]

Blue Lights: The Music of Gigi Gryce (2009)

Dances with Bulls (2009) [Teddy Charles – Note: This CD gives leadership to Charles, but Chris was responsible for putting the project together including writing the arrangements. Recorded in July 2008, it was Charles’ first studio session since 1967!]


Frank Strozier Solos

I have now added solo information to my Frank Strozier discography. This includes many live sessions where he really stretches out. In the process of doing this, I was forced to analyze some of the original compositions recorded in the 1960s and 1970s and discovered that they often have very unusual structures. In certain instances, I have described these briefly in the session notes.

You can also find a table in which I have compiled all of Strozier’s solos by recording date and performance title between 1959 and 1984. This information, which includes solo duration, was extracted from the discography.

If you are not familiar with Strozier’s work, I would highly recommend that you check it out. He was also a gifted composer and saxophonist Chris Byars has recorded several of his pieces for a Steeplechase CD to be issued in 2017.

Album Covers

I have spent a lot of time compiling album covers from releases listed in my discographies and those I recall being my very first LPs acquired when I began collecting jazz recordings as a teenager. At this point, there are 1679 covers available for viewing. Many of these are of great historical significance such as the 1950s 10-inch and 12-inch LPs from labels like Blue Note, EmArcy, Prestige, Bethlehem, Clef, Norgran and Verve as well as issues from the major labels including Columbia, Decca, Mercury, RCA Victor and their subsidiaries. I have also included some foreign issues and CD replicas when a quality scan of the original LP could not be found.

There are some rare examples such as a promo version of Gigi Gryce’s Reminiscin’ LP (Mercury; 1961) where the image of him playing his alto sax has been reversed.

Since some of my subjects lived into the CD era, you will find covers from issues in that format that have no LP equivalent. I have also chosen to include box set reissue covers of historical material such as those from the Mosaic and Uptown labels.

At the outset, I had considered incorporating the cover art into the discographies themselves but decided that a separate display allowed a more through and undistracted appreciation of these often iconic items.

As you browse the various pages of covers found here, I’m sure you will encounter, with nostalgia, some old friends.

Lucky Thompson Solos

I have added a  table (pdf) that lists solos of Lucky Thompson by recording date and performance title between 1944 and 1973. The information, which includes solo duration, is also found in the discography, from which the data was extracted. Needless to say, this was an enormous amount of work, involving listening to every performance and using a lap counter in order to accurately determine solo duration in bars. And there were some interesting revelations along the way. For example, on the iconic Miles Davis All Star Sextet session of April 29, 1954 for Prestige Records, Lucky Thompson takes the longest solo on both “Walkin'” and “Blue ‘N’ Boogie,” 10 choruses on the former and 12 choruses on the latter, despite the presence of not only Davis but also bebop innovator trombonist J.J. Johnson and up-and-coming piano star Horace Silver. These solos exemplify the saxophonist at his very best on tenor, demonstrating his unique and artful construction along with elegance and passion. I doubt that there was any controversy over Thompson’s stretching out on Davis’ date after the musicians and producers listened to the playbacks.

The table can be found here.