Ft. Don Byron (clarinet, sax), Joe Berkovitz (piano), Dezron Douglas (bass) & Ben Perowsky (drums)
Don Byron has been a singular voice in an astounding range of musical contexts, exploring widely divergent traditions while continually striving for what he calls "a sound above genre." As clarinetist, saxophonist, composer, arranger, and social critic, he redefines every genre of music he plays, be it classical, salsa, hip-hop, funk, rhythm & blues, klezmer, or any jazz style from swing and bop to cutting-edge downtown improvisation.
An inspired eclectic, Don Byron has performed an array of musical styles with great success. Byron first attained a measure of notoriety for playing Klezmer, specifically the music of the late Mickey Katz. While the novelty of a black man playing Jewish music was enough to grab the attention of critics, it was Byron’s jazz-related work that ultimately made him a major figure. Byron is an exceptional clarinetist from a technical perspective; he also possesses a profound imagination that best manifests itself in his multifarious compositions. At heart, Byron is a conceptualist. Each succeeding album seems based on a different stylistic approach, from the free jazz/classical leanings of his first album, Tuskegee Experiments (Nonesuch, 1992), to the hip-hop/funk of Nu Blaxpoitation (Blue Note, 1998). Byron’s composition “There Goes the Neighborhood” was commissioned by the Kronos Quartet and premiered in London in 1994. He’s also composed for silent film, served as the director of jazz for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and scored for television. Byron was born and raised in New York City, the son of a mailman who also occasionally played bass in calypso bands, and a mother who dabbled on piano. As a child, Byron developed asthma; his doctor suggested he take up a wind instrument as therapy. Byron chose clarinet. His South Bronx neighborhood had a sizeable Jewish population, which partly explains his fascination with Klezmer. Byron was encouraged by his parents to learn about all different kinds of music, from Leonard Bernstein to Dizzy Gillespie. Byron’s models on clarinet included Tony Scott, Artie Shaw, and especially Jimmy Hamilton. As an improviser, Joe Henderson was a prominent influence. As a teenager, Byron studied clarinet with Joe Allard. Byron attended the New England Conservatory of Music, where he studied with George Russell. While at NEC, Byron was recruited to play in Hankus Netsky’s Klezmer Conservatory Band. Byron moved from Boston back to New York in the mid-’80s, where he began playing with several of the city’s more prominent jazz avant-gardists, including David Murray, Craig Harris, and Hamiet Bluiett. A year after recording Tuskegee Experiments, Byron made Plays the Music of Mickey Katz(Nonesuch), which put something of an end to his Klezmer career (at least in terms of recording). Byron’s career built steadily over the course of the ’90s. By the end of the decade he had signed with Blue Note records. While hardly a radical, Byron is an original voice within the bounds of whatever style he happens to embrace. ~ Chris Kelsey
Pianist Joe Berkovitz was featured on Byron’s acclaimed 1992 debut album, Tuskegee Experiments (Nonesuch).
New York-based composer, bandleader, sideman, educator, and 2019 DownBeat magazine “Rising Star” bassist Dezron Douglas has established himself as a musician’s musician. One of the most in-demand young bassists in jazz today, Douglas is respected not only for his talent but also for his dedication to the authenticity of the music. Having recorded on more than 100 records as a sideman, he has six solo recordings, and his most recent EP, “Black Lion,” was released in 2018. As a sideman, Dezron has performed and recorded with jazz luminaries including Pharoah Sanders, Cyrus Chestnut, George Cables, Keyon Harrold, and Makaya McCraven and is a member of the Ravi Coltrane Quartet, Louis Hayes Groups, Enrico Rava/Joe Lovano Quintet, Steve Turre Quartet/Sextet, and the David Murray New Octet.
Ben Perowsky’s notable career has placed him among a small vanguard of players able to move between jazz, experimental music and cutting edge pop and rock. He cut his teeth as a youth playing drums for the likes of Rickie Lee Jones, John Cale, Roy Ayers, James Moody, Bob Berg, Mike Stern and Michael Brecker. Broke ground driving back beats for NY bands Elysian Fields and Joan as Policewoman as well as John Lurie’s Lounge Lizards. He Co-founded the electric jazz group Lost Tribe and has continued to record and perform with pop and jazz legends such as John Scofield, Belle and Sebastian, John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Lou Reed, Pat Martino, Tegan and Sara, Uri Caine, Steven Bernstein, Walter Becker, Vernon Reid, Loudon, Martha and Rufus Wainwright. Ben has produced 8 critically acclaimed records to date. He currently plays in a band called RedCred with John Medeski and Chris Speed.