Don Byron is a musician’s musician. In the four times I’ve seen him play, including most recently a performance at UT-Austin, it’s been impossible not to notice the respect that he commands among fellow players both on stage and off. It doesn’t hurt that his recordings over the years have themselves been testaments to his own appreciation for, and innovative interpretations of, previous artists’s work such as 1993’s Don Byron Plays the Music of Mickey Katz and 2004’s Ivey-Divey, featuring music by Lester Young.
His latest release, Do The Boomerang: The Music of Junior Walker is no exception. Joined by an inspired crew including Chris Thomas King on vocals (you might remember him from his role in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and guitarist David Gilmore (not that David Gilmour), this time around Byron puts his trusted clarinet aside and delivers a world class turn on sax (where he lacks in dexterity compared to his clarinet work, he delivers on the instrument’s penchant for rich coloration and sustained intensity).
There are numerous stand-out tracks including “Cleo’s Mood,” “Shotgun,” and the ballad “What Does It Take (to Win Your Love),” but my current personal favorite is actually a cover of James Brown’s “There It Is.” Byron wisely chooses not to stray too far from Brown’s signature instrumentation and song structure, complete with that unique feel of studied improvisation, hit-mes and all. The result is an utterly infectious 7+ minute stream of cascading solos, change-ups and rasped vocals, driven by an indefatigable rhythm section.
Cross-posted to Shake Your Fist on October 29, 2006