Don Byron: Romance With the Unseen

Clarinetist Don Byron has put together an extraordinary quartet for his latest set of recordings, and given them a solid set of music to explore. Bill Frisell, long a Byron compere, is in non-Nashville mindset here, brilliantly laying out harmonic pathways that turn out to be something altogether different from the listener’s expectations: changes, indeed. Bassist Drew Gress probes constantly, even outlining the simplest changes. For drummer Jack DeJohnette, the usual superlatives apply: his finely-shaded cultivation of time around the music at hand is as good as it gets. The ferocious “Bernhard Goetz, James Ramseur and Me,” shows the full quartet at full tilt; the Lennon-McCartney “I’ll Follow the Sun,” with its enchanting changes, is a particularly apt choice for clarinet, as well as for Frisell’s crystalline musings. Byron pays homage to Ellington with “Mural from Two Perspectives” and “Perdido,” with the latter being a pretext for these fine players losing themselves in the music. Byron quotes liberally through his solo: when “Laura” pops her head up, dancing to Byron’s quirkily individual approach to the line, she reveals much of Don Byron’s approach to improvisation and jazz.