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Ivey-Divey by Don Byron

45-year old clarinetist and New York native Don Byron is one of those jazz artists who continually creates new forward-thinking and highly critically acclaimed music yet, for unknown reasons, goes largely overlooked by both the public and the mainstream jazz press. In a just world he’d have as many feature articles on him appear as do on Joe Lovano or Michael Brecker. Yet, in spite of the relative obscurity, he persists in constructing fresh new modes of imaginative creation with each and every new CD he releases as a leader.

Ivey-Divey, named after one of saxophonist Lester Young’s more famous witticisms, is ostensibly influenced, in part, by the bass-less trio of Young, pianist Nat "King" Cole and drummer Buddy Rich. To this reviewer’s ears, however, this recording owes more to the bass-less trio of Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa. It’s the exploratory nature of Wilson and Krupa that seem to have more in relevance with where Byron goes on this recording than the firm support Cole and Rich provided for Young. Byron, along with drummer Jack DeJohnette and extremely underappreciated pianist Jason Moran, team together to find the unexplored cracks in their selection of tunes, and exploit the findings to the max.

Right from the beginning of the first track, I Want To Be Happy, you know this album is going to slap you up-side-the-head solidly, repeatedly and with a strength you haven’t heard in a long while. Drummer Jack DeJohnette’s Second-Line variant rhythmic kicks, pianist Jason Moran’s extremely insightful harmonic presence, and Byron’s flawless, effortless and yet all-encompassing commanding control of the bass clarinet puts this recording on a par with nothing that has come before. Not only is this the best jazz bass clarinet playing heard since Eric Dolphy’s masterful turn on On Green Dolphin Street, but the trio whips the old standard into a flag-waving scorching lecture on where jazz should be going. By finding a new manner within which to place a piece one could not hope for any artist to find new life in, the group puts so many of the so-called "young-lions" to shame for their stubborn insistence of playing by rules that were written 50 to 60 years ago. This group works hard to find their own sound, and the listeners are that much richer for their efforts.

Happy is followed by track after track of excitingly new, original and inventive takes on a wide variety of musical material. From old chestnuts like, I Cover The Waterfront and two great versions of Somebody Loves Me, to pieces associated with Miles Davis, Freddie Freeloader and an acoustic version of In A Silent Way, the trio of Byron, Moran and DeJohnette, never fail to say something original each and every time, and for extended periods without repeating themselves. They seem to have an inexhaustible supply of ideas, all of which are fueled by the artistic interactions they share throughout the recording. These interactions are not slowed down on the five tracks where bassist Lonnie Plaxico is added. Instead, the trio is able to interweave his lines into the exchange of ideas all-the-while keeping the music novel and innovative.

This album will most undoubtedly find itself on just about everyone’s Top 10 List as one the best albums of 2004, if not the best of the year. Beat the rush and order your copy now for when the album is released in September. When TIME Magazine wrote, "Calling Don Byron a jazz musician is like calling the Pacific wet it just doesn’t begin to describe it," you can trust them to have got it right.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Don Byron
  • CD Title: Ivey-Divey
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Blue Note
  • Rating: Five Stars
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