New York City based saxophonist Chris Byars was born into a family of classically trained musicians. At the tender age of fourteen he realized that his true musical calling lay in the world of jazz, so he devoted himself wholeheartedly to becoming a completely functional performer in every sense of the word. He has been leading his own quartet and octet, recording for the Smalls record label which is named after the famed NYC jazz venue where Byars has honed his craft for many years. His latest release Jazz Pictures At An Exhibition Of Himalayan Art ( a bit of nod to prog rockers ELP perhaps?) is a unique recording that was first premiered in a live setting at The Rubin Museum Of Art in October 2007.
The premise of this project was to embrace various elements of Asian sculptures, paintings and masks etc… and set them to music, thus giving the willing participant a completely unique audio and visual experience. These nine superbly crafted compositions provide an excellent marriage of classic 50's style bop ("The Better To See You", "Whispered Tradition") with a gentle and restrained splashing of exotic sounds from the Asian and Indian cultures ( "Buddha Shakyamuni" & "Chakrasamvara"). Byars' performances here on tenor, alto & soprano sax, as well as flute, perfectly highlights his dynamic and versatile range, as his playing encompasses many different textures and moods. As if to salute his rich musical lineage his father James also puts in an appearance by contributing some tasteful work on oboe and English horn.
The music on Jazz Pictures At An Exhibition Of Himalayan Art should be received as nothing less than the true gift that it is. Also included is a foldout poster which supposedly includes all the images used in the original show, which adds a nice touch. Do yourself a favor and check out Chris Byars and his talented band of musicians either live in concert or buy purchasing one of his CD's, because I'm sure you'll find both options to be a truly enriching musical experience.
1) The Better To See You
2) Tonpa Shenrab
3) Blues Under The Boddhi Tree
4) Buddha Shakyamuni
8) Just Ask
9) Whispered Tradition