Jaki (Family Man) 02/01/00

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Byard,Jaki (Family Man) 02/01/00

The music world lost one of its most unique pianists and one of its greatest mood manipulators when Jaki Byard passed away in 1999. This reissue of a 1978 Muse set is wildly eclectic, typical for Byard, and yet another example of the pianist's penchant for blending elements of dignity and playfulness. He scurries merrily (if not puckishly) across the keys on the buoyant "Just Rollin' Along" before his tender, exotic dissection of an Ellington-Strayhorn medley that shows his fondness for impressionistic, Ellingtonian abstraction. Then he unveils his mirthful but unsettled "L.H. Gatewalk Rag" (with bassist Major Holley switching over to tuba), a ragtime-based number that actually reaches further back to the mid-19th century parlor song tradition. Next, he offers some warm and earthy Ben Webster-style tenor sax on "Ballad to Louise," backed delicately by Warren Smith on vibes. Finally, we get compositions from his Family Suite, where he offers musical drawings of four family members--his mother, his wife's mother, and two grandchildren--plus one sinister bit of electronics play. The gentle, august outlines of the two women contrast nicely with the energy and mischief of the grandchildren. As usual, Byard leaves no style unturned. --Marc Greilsamer

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