2. Jaki Byard, Blues for Smoke
|(Black Lion/Candid, 1960/1989?)|
Have always meant to hear more Byard, an unpigeonholeable pianist/composer who was the victim of a still-unsolved murder in his home in 1999. This is an all-original solo date from 1960 (seemingly unissued until the '80s), on the cusp of his lengthy association with Mingus; the continual interplay between harmonies and textures marked as “European” and more vernacular (blacker) pianisms (e.g. stride-via-Monk) was, unless I'm mistaken, much more unusual at the time than it is now (Jarrett, Jason Moran, so forth). Technically impressive, though not preciously so, throughout, but most distinctive when something’s happening on both of the above fronts at once, as on a waltz (“Aluminum Baby”) where the right hand swings and the left doesn’t, or a long passage of the title track where he gets insistently Cowell-clustery over a hypnotic blues turnaround, like something you’d hear at an especially arty rent-party. I’d definitely seek out more, though this particular record is marred by indifferent recording of the instrument itself.