Lick of the Day: Don Byas, Laura (0:00 to 0:20)

Byas was that underrated tenor man, the missing link between Coleman Hawkins’ swinging melodic tendencies and John Coltrane’s “sheets of sound” flurries and allegedly “angry” playing.

The first few measures of “Laura” encapsulate Byas’ playing: he used a Rico 3 reed on a Florida Otto Link 3* (for those who don’t play tenor sax or just don’t care that much, it’s a light, brash reed on a narrow, brash mouthpiece: normally you wouldn’t put the two “brash” elements together): the resulting sound was, in Byas’ hands and mouth at least, simultaneously loud and powerful, and whispering and tender.

Dig “Laura”:

0:00 to 0:05: sounds like an air-raid siren, very bright and loud, close-mic’ed as it probably was;

0:05 to 0:07: the overall sound softens, and by 0:07 has nestled quite intimately with the contemplative tone of the piece, ballady and bittersweet… at 0:12 a (tenor-transposed) C to C# to again suggest the latent power of the tone, then a subtle B to F# and then E at 0:20.

The entire piece is great and instructive. Give a listen or buy you some….

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