Jaki Byard/David Eyges: Night Leaves

As reedman Michael Marcus so readily discovered, pianist Jaki Byard can be a most agreeable and most challenging duo mate. Add cellist David Eyges to the list of those who’ve found Byard to be a compatible partner. Perhaps it’s the wealth of musicological knowledge the wise one brings to the piano keyboard, or perhaps it’s his encyclopedic storehouse of jazz piano styles. Whatever the case, Jaki Byard has long been a black music renaissance man of the piano, as evidenced by his comfort level whether it’s ragtime or no time he’s faced with.

Here Byard works with a musician who has explored some of the outer edges of jazz, usually with a jazz/chamber sensibility which befits his chosen instrument. This recording proves once again that cello and piano can make for a most agreeable duo. There are moments of good humor, such as Byard’s medley of “Gimme Some,” “Cinco Quatro” and “Boogie Woogie,” selections of lovely tenderness, such as Eyges’ “Reflections” (which he renders arco), and moments that beg for expansion beyond their time limits, such as Byard’s opening “Night Leaves.” Eyges elicits a substantial sound from his electric cello, whose debt to Edison never over-burdens the music. Above all these two share an agreeable dialogue.

Willard Jenkins

Willard Jenkins has covered jazz artists, performances, and the jazz infrastructure since his early-’70s undergrad days writing for The Black Watch student newspaper at Kent State University. Additionally, he has been a jazz broadcaster since 1973— currently programming at WPFW in Washington, D.C.—and a jazz concerts and festivals presenter since 1978. He currently serves as artistic director of the DC Jazz Festival and artistic director of jazz programming at Tribeca Performing Arts Center (NYC). A founding member of the Jazz Journalists Association, he is also a recipient of its Lifetime Achievement award.