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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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Universal 0602498420010





1. Summertime
2. Night and Day
3. Easy to Love
4. Where or When
5. Flamingo
6. Stardust
7. Ol' Man River
8. The Man I Love
9. Georgia on My Mind
10. Over the Rainbow
11. Laura
12. Somebody Loves Me
13. Old Folks at Home
14. Riviera Blues (Blues à la Don)
15. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
16. I Cover the Waterfront
17. It's the Talk of the Town
18. A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody
Don Byas - Tenor sax
Art Simmons Piano (tracks 1, 5-7, 11-16, 18)
Jean-Jacques Tilché - Guitar (tracks 1, 5-7, 18)
Roger Grasset Bass (tracks 1, 5-7, 18)
Claude Marty Drums (tracks 1, 5-7, 18)
Maurice Vander - Piano (tracks 2-4, 8-10)
Jean-Pierre Sasson - Guitar (tracks 2-4, 8-10)
Jacques "Popof" Medvedko - Bass (tracks 2-4, 8-10)
Benny Bennett - Drums (tracks 2-4, 8-10)

Joe Benjamin - Bass (tracks 11-16)

Bill Clark - Drums (tracks 11-16)

Don Byas was one of those "almost" jazzmen who never quite attained the fame of the best-known saxophonists (such players as Coleman Hawkins or Charlie Parker). This may be because he was plainly influenced by Coleman Hawkins or perhaps because he spent many years in Paris - one of the many Americans who found life more congenial there than in the USA. By the time he settled in Paris in the late 1940s, he had already made his name playing in the bands of such people as Lionel Hampton, Lucky Millinder and Count Basie (taking Lester Young's place with Basie in 1941).

This CD of tracks from the early fifties, one of the re-released "Jazz in Paris" series, displays his marvellous tone - as warm and smooth as velvet, and as furry as the fuzz on a peach. The similarities with Coleman Hawkins are evident, although Byas tends to be more harmonically adventurous. Johnny Griffin called Byas "The Tatum of the saxophone". In a programme consisting mainly of slow numbers, he lays out his gorgeous sound and his imaginative improvisations. He often stays close to the melody: embroidering the tunes rather than straying very far away from them, but this makes these tracks accessible to any listener with ears to hear. Yet he tends to finish tunes with an intricate coda, which the pianists do well to match in harmony.

The other musicians on these three sessions mostly stay in the background, although Art Simmons gets half-a-chorus solo on Flamingo, with a touch as delicate as Teddy Wilson. Somebody Loves Me breaks the mould by being a fairly up-tempo swinger, which makes one wish there were more such numbers on the CD. Don's solo shows that he can really swing. Riviera Blues is another fast tune - a blues on which Don lets his hair down, even adopting a rougher tone for the duration of the track.

But most tracks stick to the ballad format, which makes for a very laid-back album. Don Byas was such a beautiful ballad player that one can excuse the album for its general lack of high-voltage excitement. Instead you get 55 minutes of lovely, considered playing from a master of the tenor sax.

Tony Augarde


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