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Don Byron

Don Byron
Photo by Ed Newman
Background information
Birth name Donald Byron
Born (1958-11-08) November 8, 1958
Origin New York, United States
Genres Avant-garde jazz
Post bop
Instruments Clarinet
Bass Clarinet
Years active 1980s–present
Labels Nonesuch/Elektra Records
Blue Note/EMI Records
Associated acts Hankus Netsky
M-Base Collective

Donald Byron (born November 8, 1958) is an American composer and multi-instrumentalist. He primarily plays clarinet, but has also used bass clarinet and saxophones.

Though rooted in jazz, Byron's music is stylistically eclectic. He has worked in many different musical genres, ranging from klezmer music and German lieder, to Raymond Scott's "cartoon-jazz," hard rock/metal, and rap. Most of Byron's albums have been conceptual, devoted to works of a particular musician and/or style of music.


  • Early life 1
  • Musical career 2
  • Discography 3
    • As leader 3.1
      • As composer 3.1.1
    • As sideman 3.2
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Early life

Byron was born in The Bronx, in New York City. Both parents were musicians: his mother was a pianist and his father played bass in calypso bands. As well as listening to jazz recordings by Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and others, he was exposed to other styles through trips to the ballet and symphony concerts.[1]

He studied clarinet with Joe Allard[2] and studied music at the

  • Official site
  • NewMusicBox: "Interview with Don Byron" (January 1, 2000). Don Byron in conversation with Frank J. Oteri on December 18, 1999.
  • Art of the States: Don Byron
  • CNN interview with Don Byron
  • United States Artists, arts advocacy organization

External links

  1. ^ "Don Byron". All About Jazz. Retrieved 2010-01-17. 
  2. ^ a b Kelsey, Chris. "Don Byron". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-01-17. 
  3. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Bug Music". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-01-17. 
  4. ^ Independent Music Awards - Past Judges
  5. ^ "Meet the USA Fellows - United States Artists - Great Art Forms Here". Retrieved 2014-07-28. 


As sideman

  • String Quartet No. 2; Four Thoughts on Marvin Gay, III, ETHEL: Light (Cantaloupe, 2006)
  • Bang on a Can All Stars & Don Byron: A Ballad for Many (Cantaloupe, 2006)
  • Lisa Moore: Seven (Cantaloupe, 2009)
  • String Quartet No. 2; Four Thoughts on Marvin Gaye, I-IV, ETHEL: Heavy (Innova, 2012)

As composer

  • Tuskegee Experiments (Nonesuch, 1992)
  • Plays the Music of Mickey Katz (Nonesuch, 1993)
  • Music for Six Musicians (Nonesuch, 1995)
  • Don Byron Quintet: No-Vibe Zone: Live at the Knitting Factory (Knitting Factory Works, 1996)
  • Bug Music (Nonesuch, 1996)
  • Don Byron & Existential Dred: Nu Blaxploitation (Blue Note, 1998)
  • Romance with the Unseen (Blue Note, 1999)
  • A Fine Line: Arias and Lieder (Blue Note, 2000)
  • You Are #6: More Music for Six Musicians (Blue Note, 2001)
  • Ivey-Divey (Blue Note, 2004)
  • Do the Boomerang - The Music of Junior Walker" (Blue Note, 2006)
  • Love, Peace, and Soul (Savoy, 2011)

As leader


Byron won the Rome Prize Fellowship awarded by the American Academy in Rome in 2009, and his Seven Etudes for solo piano, commissioned by pianist Lisa Moore, made him a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Musical Composition in 2009.

Byron was named a 2007 USA Prudential Fellow[5] and awarded a US$50,000 grant by United States Artists, a public charity that supports and promotes the work of American artists. He also won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2007.

In 2001, Byron performed "Bli Blip" for the Red Hot + Indigo, a tribute to Duke Ellington, which raised money for various charities devoted to increasing AIDS awareness and fighting the disease.

Byron was a judge for the 2nd annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers.[4]

Byron is a member of the Black Rock Coalition. He has recorded with Allen Toussaint, Marc Ribot, Vernon Reid, Bill Frisell, Joe Henry, and others.

Byron has worked as a professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver (2015), The University at Albany (2005-2009) and MIT (2007-2008), teaching composition, improvisation, music history, clarinet, and saxophone.

Byron is a practicing jazz historian, and some of his albums have been recreations (in spirit) of forgotten moments in the history of popular music. Examples are Plays the Music of Mickey Katz and Bug Music.[3] Byron has been nominated for a Grammy Award for his bass clarinet solo on "I Want to Be Happy" from Ivey-Divey.

Byron is a gifted performer on clarinet, bass clarinet and saxophone, but on many of his albums he subordinates his own playing to the exploration of a particular style. Byron is representative of a new generation of conservatory-trained jazz musicians who explore and record in a rich array of styles; his first album, Tuskegee Experiments, is a stew of classical avant garde and jazz improvisation, while albums such as Ivey Divey represent a straight-ahead exploration of the traditional jazz 'tune'.

Musical career

. Hankus Netsky, founded by NEC faculty member Klezmer Conservatory Band While in Boston, Byron performed and recorded with the [2]

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