Jaki Byard - The Jaki Byard Experience

Jaki Byard The Jaki Byard Experience (Prestige 1969)

The Jaki Byard Experience is not for the faint-hearted.

Jaki Byard - The Jaki Byard Experience


Jaki Byard (piano), Roland Kirk (tenor saxophone, clarinet, manzello), Richard Davis (bass), Alan Dawson (drums)


on September 17, 1968 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


as PR 7615 in 1969

Track listing

Side A:
Parisian Thoroughfare
Hazy Eve
Shine On Me
Side B:
Memories Of You
Teach Me Tonight

No doubt, those that long for the continuous flow of the sounds of surprise go to Jaki Byard and Roland Kirk. In particular The Jaki Byard Experience, which most likely brings about shock, curiosity, delight and finally surrender. Two distinctly unconventional individuals for the price of one. The quartet of Byard’s eleventh album on Prestige is completed by bassist Richard Davis and drummer Alan Dawson, a sublime duo that bonded with Byard for the first time in 1963 and whose instincts are cooperative instead of merely supportive.

Although active in the Boston area since the late 40s, Byard made his mark in New York with Charles Mingus in the early 60’s, dazzling listeners and audiences with his eclectic style. Kirk burst on the same scene around that time; blind one-man-band playing tenor sax and exotic saxes that he found in shops like the stritch and manzello, adding whistles that hung on his chest, shoulder, hip or even ear, appearing to be a sideshow attraction to the general audience, a musician with exceptional declarations of independence to cogniscenti and colleagues.

Both shared the gift of mining the multi-faceted tradition and simultaneously pushing it to its outer limits, both were unique personalities that refused to take indiscriminately the innovations of Ornette Coleman, playing a kind of hide and seek with avant-garde instead of merely engaging in ersatz Free Jazz. Byard’s encyclopedic knowledge of early jazz forms is legendary. Kirk, who also landed a place in Charles Mingus’s band in the early 60’s, mixed blues with modernity and unusual virtuosity. Their music is a world unto its own. And it brims with enthusiasm. Like Thelonious Monk’s music.

An improviser should work with the fixed material in a piece to avoid hackneyed phrases.

That’s Monk, the Buddha of jazz, occasionally breaking silence with conceptions that are at once practical and enigmatic. Paradoxically, what seems to be a knockdown argument led him down the path of “rooted freedom” as opposed to freedom for freedom’s sake. Freedom for freedom’s sake is a dead end street. Free love is ok but mostly equates with detachement. The opportunities inherent to mass consumption suck: fast food and sugar are killers. Both conceptions ultimately exhaust themselves in the need to preserve meaning. The equilibrium of passion and reason cannot blossom in the absence of transcendence. Monk may have been a puzzling personality but he most likely had rooted freedom on his mind while teaching beautiful and original alternate chords to friends and journeymen, and writing Trinkle Tinkle and Criss Cross.

And Byard and Kirk understood. As a result, one gets served a dish of delicious music that while worked out within the textures of harmony and melody, sends mysterious scents out the backyard into the alley and teases the palate with an abundance of spicy flavors; implicit loyalty to unpredictability and deeds of gutsy passion that keeps any negative sensation of self-consciousness out the door.

One gets a rebellious version of Bud Powell’s Parisian Thoroughfare, which is introduced by a turbulent intro in the root key, segues crisply into the theme and is developed with the thunderous blasts of Kirk’s solo’s on, respectively, manzello and tenor saxophone. Manzello Kirk is a scudding jaguar. Tenor Kirk is the leader of the buffalo tribe, deceptively light on his feet and howling with fatherly authority. On both instruments, Kirk’s sense of old-fashioned swing is palpable and his timing is angular and agile throughout his long story, which ends with a roar on simultaneously played horns.

Byard throws himself into battle with hammering bass notes, shrewd combinations of distorted chords, endless staccato bop motives and a climax of tart Earl Hines-ish embellishments. His rubato interaction with Alan Dawson’s snare rolls is one of the examples of the quartet’s sublime and lively interaction. As is the high energy of bassist Richard Davis. Davis has his share of storytelling, mixing strong arco bass with mischievous dissonance and bended notes on multiple strings. This is jazz that rivals the archetypical rock bands of the late 60’s. Mind you, on acoustic instruments!

It makes sense that Byard included a composition of Monk, himself a master of dedication. Evidence is the session’s second example of controlled mayhem. Perhaps the curious balancing act of Kirk, a rollercoaster ride of phrases that are wrenched from his gut and purposefully evade the changes, may be hard to digest. Regardless, it is a rare feat. Kirk apparently only takes a breath twice. Cat with the lungs of a whale.

One gets the hefty boogaloo treatment of the traditional Shine On Me, romantic and sardonic piano-bass duet of Hazy Eve, twisted Fats Waller homage of Memories Of You. Coasting is absent in Byard’s case. He’s the guy that wears haute couture on top and shorts beneath, strollin’ on the snow-bound path. Kirk’s the man on the barstool whom everyone tells his stories too. And he’ll remark: “Never end your sentences on a vowel.” They are the proud underdog. One wonders if Byard’s recorded vocal that precedes the opening of Parisian Thoroughfare and the record – “Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud” – is pride or pastiche.

Definitely the things they’re saying so loud are of the utmost excitement and authority.

Eddie Baccus - Feel Real

Eddie Baccus Feel Real (Smash 1963)

Eddie Baccus is the Speedy Gonzales of the Hammond B3 organ. Still, Mr. Baccus keeps up a remarkable clarity of line, as can be heard on his 1963 album on Smash, Feel Real.

Eddie Baccus - Feel Real


Eddie Baccus (organ), Mose Fowler (guitar), George Cook (drums), Charles Crosby (drums), Theoshis Tannis (flute B1)


in October 1962 at Universal Recording Studios, Chicago


as Smash 67029 in 1963

Track listing

Side A:
Feel Real
Out Of Nowhere
Stranger On The Shore
Blues At Dawn
Side B:
A Breath In The Wind
Flight 464
In A Minor Groove

For a long time now, it has been Eddie Baccus Sr. Until recently, the 81-year old, blind organist performed with his son, saxophonist Eddie Baccus Jr. Baccus was born in Lawnsdale, North Carolina in 1936. Soon after birth, the young Eddie turned blind. He grew up in Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio, where he came under the tutelage of Roland Kirk. Until then, Baccus was a pianist, but he took up the organ whilst in Kirk’s group. The group had a nine-month residency at the 100 Club in Cleveland. When Kirk went to New York to join Charles Mingus, Baccus remained in Ohio with drummer Charles Crosby. Kirk had recommended Baccus to Jack Tracy, label boss of Smash Records. And so Feel Real came about.

The only album by Eddie Baccus as a leader, Feel Real, features a tight-knit, cookin’ trio including guitarist Mose Fowler and drummer George Cook, who alternates with Baccus’s old pal Charles Crosby on a number of tunes. Baccus is a heated cat, functioning somewhat as the proverbial talented teenage organist that underlines the Baptist preacher’s fire-and-brimstone speeches in a church way down south. To be sure, it’s kind of a BOP church in a way. Plenty of greasy sermons are commented upon by quicksilver figures that very likely are grounded in Baccus’s past as a pianist who was influenced by Charlie Parker and Bud Powell. The bravura of Baccus is underlined by impeccable timing on top of the beat. The frenzied ‘more is more’ approach does, however, makes part of the congregation, not least the sinner at the desk of Flophouse Magazine, rather jittery. There’s a limit to stuffing multitudes of notes in a bar.

Fans of good old organ grooves will love Feel Real’s zest, expertise and diverse repertoire. Baccus provides a couple of catchy blues-based tunes that effectively make use of stop time. Feel Real is a delicious ditty, featuring Baccus as a NASCAR driver dangerously close to the boards, his tires practically burnt to pulp. His razor-sharp intro of Flight 464 is a gas. Blues At Dawn is a variation of Charles Brown’s Driftin’ Blues. It’s down-home stuff taken at a leisurely medium tempo, underscored by the in-your-face sound of the Baccus B3. The group puts a good groove into Out Of Nowhere. A lithe touch is added to the album in the guise of Roland Kirk’s A Breath In The Wind, a deconstruction of the traditional theme-solo-theme format that features lovely, breathy flute playing by one Theoshis Tannis. Obviously, Tannis is a pseudonym for Roland Kirk.

Baccus even takes a shot at Acker Bilk’s Stranger On The Shore. May sound like kitsch. But don’t worry, the waves washed plenty of sleaze and dirt to the coast line on this one too.

Listen to Feel Real, Blues At Dawn and A Breath In The Wind on YouTube.