Jazz CD Reviews
Jaki Byard – A Matter of Black And White – Live At The Keystone Korner Vol. 2 – High Note Records
Published on April 6, 2011
Jaki Byard – A Matter of Black And White – Live At The Keystone Korner Vol. 2 – High Note Records HCD 7219 54:25 ****:
As a companion to the 2007 High Note release entitled “Sunshine of My Soul”, this latest offering again has Jaki Byard in a splendid unaccompanied effort from the now defunct Keystone Korner in San Francisco recorded in 1978-79. While there is some overlap between the two discs (‘Seasons”/”God Bless the Child”/”’Round Midnight”), this is Byard at his improvisational peak.
Often overlooked, Jaki Byard was an original pianist with an encyclopaedic musical knowledge, who could play several other instruments with equal facility. In addition, on any one tune, he could switch time and structure to give the song an eclectic interpretation. This session starts out with a Byard original “Seasons”, and is a perfect reflection of this technique, and also shows his warm side. He then segues into a couple of tunes associated with Billie Holiday, namely “God Bless the Child “and “Lover Man”, both is given reverential treatment. His take on Irving Berlin’s "Alexander’s Ragtime Band" starts out with ragtime strut and then is transformed into an abstract layer that Berlin would surely not recognize, and then back to something with which the composer would identify. “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?” is both stylish and reflective.
Following with the Petula Clark hit “I Know a Place”, Byard has a sense of the occasion and offers the tune with an easy pace. In the Thelonious Monk composition “’Round Midnight”, Byard continues on his stream of conscious playing to give the piece a Monk-like reading. The disc closes with an Ellington-Strayhorn medley “Lush Life/Day Dream/Johnny Come Lately”. In a careful listening to these tunes one will hear the essentials of the jazz piano folklore.
Today’s new generation of pianists has generally forsaken issuing solo albums because they prefer to lean on the comfort provided by a rhythm section. Jaki Byard had no such trepidation, because he was capable of a two-handed piano style that was full of inventiveness and unconventionality.
TrackList: Seasons; Billie Holiday Tribute-God Bless the Child/Lover Man; Alexander’s Ragtime Band; Hello Young Lovers; Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?; I Know a Place; `Round Midnight; Sunday; Ellington-Strayhorn Medley – Lush Life/Day Dream/Johnny Come Lately
— Pierre Giroux