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Jaleel Shaw Remembers Byard Lancaster

Aug. 6, 1942-Aug. 23, 2012

Byard Lancaster (r.) with 12-year-old Jaleel Shaw, circa 1991

Multi-instrumentalist Byard Lancaster was one of the first saxophonists I met when I began playing alto in Philadelphia at an early age. He was also one of the first saxophonists to offer me guidance. Although I never studied privately with Byard, he would have me sit in on his performances and would call me to give me tips and advice on music, playing the saxophone and saxophone maintenance. He would also come down to talk with and play with the Philadelphia Clef Club Youth Jazz Ensemble, which I was a part of until I graduated from high school.

I remember Byard playing almost every type of woodwind instrument there was. As I sit here writing this, I’m trying to think of a woodwind instrument I didn’t see him play: the alto, the soprano, the tenor, the baritone saxophone … the oboe, clarinet, flute, piccolo. And there were also different instruments from all around the world: African flutes, Chinese flutes and more. There was always something new, and I don’t even think I can remember the names of all the instruments I saw him with.

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