I first heard Junior Walker on the late 70’s radio hit by Foreigner, Urgent. The squawking saxophone cut through the white boy Brit-rock like a flash flood through eroded hills. The sound was intensely urgent and made you want to stop whatever you were doing and join the party.
I first heard Don Byron some years ago, from my friend Phillip. I was attracted to Byron’s different take on jazz which was very contemporary and street wise. A few months ago I stumbled upon Do the Boomerang: The Music of Junior Walker, which is Byron’s tribute to the great 1960’s Motown sax player.
As I was doing a bit of research on him I discovered a wonderful new resource, the jazztruth blog where I also found the following interview with Don Byron.
GC: In terms of your musical scope, all the things that you are into and that you have explored as an artist, is that something you are conscious of or just how you’ve always been, into different musical avenues?
DB: Well, I always had a few different things that I was into. When I was an undergrad, I kind of thought what I wanted to know was how to play classical music of a certain ilk, how to play jazz of a certain ilk, I was playing a lot of Latin music, and I was starting to play with the Klezmer Conservatory band. When I first started being interested in being a jazz musician, the job of being a jazz clarinet player was really very limited. Most musicians my age, black musicians especially, were not really interested in the instrument. So I guess my idea of jazz clarinet really kind of evolved out of trying to keep a theoretical thing going and a technical thing going on the instrument but that I would have one foot in the classical thing and one foot in the jazz thing. And certain ethnic traditions that I came upon that I might be playing authentically. Like I played even as an undergrad Latin music authentically, Klezmer music authentically, that there were traditions other than jazz and classical music where the clarinet was a well-used instrument. And at that point a lot of people that played good clarinet were not willing to play music like Klezmer music. They weren’t willing, they didn’t want it to drag them down. Maybe some of them came from Jewish backgrounds, they weren’t going to go backwards. Now-a-days, any underemployed clarinet player plays some Klezmer music, it’s just normal. But my thinking was more to have an awareness of these ethnic avenues where the clarinet was going, where it was vital – in Colombia, in Trinidad, in Brazil – these are places just in the Western Hemisphere that at this point, not even in the past but currently, have moving clarinet traditions that were moving ahead. Whereas I didn’t see the jazz clarinet tradition moving ahead. I saw more “traditional jazz”, pseudo-New Orleans whatever, that kind of thing, and then the swing era stuff. Then all of a sudden, there’s very little clarinet. There’s Jimmy Hamilton, there’s Tony Scott, there’s Buddy DeFranco, but in general there’s not a lot. Basically whatever it is, I kind of fashioned it out of feeling like there wasn’t a real clarinet job, I was going to have to make this job, and the job that I made was kind of a collection of skills. (more of the interview)
01 Cleo’s Mood
02 Ain’t That The Truth
03 Do The Boomerang
04 Mark Anthony Speaks
06 There It Is
07 Satan’s Blues
08 Hewbie Steps Out
09 Pucker Up, Buttercup
11 What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)
12 (I’m A) Roadrunner