Issue #69

Last Update October 31, 2010

Arts  Jazz Pictures at an Exhibition of Himalayan Art by David Katz November 25, 2008    Just about a year ago, we reviewed a concert given at the Rubin Museum by Chris Byars and his jazz group (Pictures at an Exhibition (of Himalayan Art)). Since then, a CD of that concert has become available, and the concert has been given several more times, most recently at the Riverdale YM/YWHA. What was an impressive artistic achievement on first hearing has retained its power and charm on rehearing, something that is not always true of programmatic works.

At the Riverdale concert, Mr. Byars introduced each number with a brief description of the art being projected behind him, and how that painting or sculpture influenced his composition. Many composers would succumb to the temptation to introduce "oriental" flavorings to the music, but Byars has remained true to the solid core of his art, a jazz-inflected, rhythmic and melodic style that rewards the listener for his or her attention. The solid professionalism and vituosity of the musicians composing his group make even the most difficult passages seem easy and enjoyable.

John Mosca, on trombone, demonstrates that his instrument has no limitations, and that he has no peer as a trombonist. Ari Roland, on bass, bows and plucks his way to perfection, providing a solid underpinning to the group. James Byars, a classically trained musician and a featured oboist with the New York City Ballet Orchestra, uses his oboe to provide the raw, nasal feel of an indigenous himalayan double-reed, and the mellower english horn to float a heart-stoppingly sweet melody to the audience's ears later in the concert. Stefan Schatz, on drums, gives rhythmic excitement to an alrady exciting suite. And, of course, Chris Byars, on tenor, alto and sporano saxophone and flute, shows his skill and inventiveness, not only as a composer, but as a jazz instrumentalist.

Keep your eyes open for a repeat of this concert; it is well worth attending. And certainly buy the CD. It is available through Amazon and many other jazz-oriented websites.

Chris Byars  jazz pictures at an exhibition of himalayan art, Smalls Records 2008  (823511003229)

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