Jaki Byard (1922-1999) occupies a unique place in the history of jazz piano: he was at once a living encyclopedia of the instrument, capable of summoning the spirits of most of the grandmasters, and one of its most distinctive stylists. This disc pairs a 1968 date for pan-generational sextet date with a solo piano recording, both of which represent high-water marks in his long and extraordinary career. The solos find Byard's free associative brilliance and sharp wit given free reign, while the sextet brings together a one-time-only ensemble, featuring one of the all-time hippest string quartets. With Byard-the-arranger in charge, his first-stringers (Ellington violinist Ray Nance, guitarist George Benson, Ron Carter on cello, and bassist Richard Davis--plus old friend and colleague Alan Dawson on drums and vibes) go well beyond the typical blowing session, discovering continually fresh settings over which to soar.
with Ray Nance, Ron Carter, George Benson, Richard Davis, Alan Dawson