Don Byron could be mistaken for the Wynton Marsalis of the clarinet: just because he’s a jazz player with conservatory training and classical chops. More nearly he’s Wynton’s worst nightmare: Don Byron rejects the museum school of preservationist jazz altogether. He was first famous in his twenties as “the black guy who plays Klezmer.” He’s shaken that reputation only by mixing and matching categories more provocatively. The aim, of course, is to fly over all the barbed-wire boundaries between the musics of, say, Motown, Mancini, Puccini, and Sly Stone.
The theory is-the impassioned argument in Don Byron’s case-is that good music and great composers, whether in tux or T-shirt, are connected below the level of idiom. In all of opera, Don Byron asks, “is there an aria greater than Roy Orbison’s ‘It’s Over'” from the pop charts of the American 60s? The eclectic Don Byron and his clarinet are here.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)
Don Byron, clarinetist.