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Tomasz Stanko Quartet at the Earshot Jazz Festival

Don Byron

One of Don Byron’s gifts, aside from his open-minded attitude toward music, his incredible facility on the clarinet and his visionary reach as a composer-conceptualist, is his infectious sense of childlike wonder that he brings to the bandstand, whether he’s playing klezmer, Afro-Caribbean, classical, funk or cartoon music. In very charming terms, Byron conveyed his genuine affection for the work of two composers in this “Contrasting Brilliance” concert whose music is often categorized as “difficult.” Of Stravinsky, his teenage hero, Byron wrote in the program notes: “No one has ever sold dissonance so successfully as pure pleasure. It’s a talent that very few musicians have: the ability to make people love your skronk.”

Byron relates heavily to that skronk factor inherent in Stravinsky’s oeuvre. But he is also drawn to the disciplined mind that conceived such demanding and deliberate works as “The Ebony Concerto,” “Septet” or “Concertino for String Quartet,” the latter which he called “my favorite piece of music in the whole wide world.” Byron’s own renegade spirit also relates to the controlled absurdity of Raymond Scott’s novelty tunes like “Powerhouse,” “Siberian Sleighride” and “War Dance for Wooden Indians.” Scott’s oddball music, decidedly Dadaist yet strangely familiar, is the soundtrack for a few generations brought up on Warner Bros. cartoons, specifically Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig clips.

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