Meet The Jazz Audience

Meet The Jazz Audience: Don Byrd

In the last few decades, June has become the busiest month for jazz in New York City, home to the biggest jazz scene in the world. But who is actually going to these shows? A small team of Bloggers Supreme has been attending the festivities — primarily, the CareFusion Jazz Festival New York. In between our reports on various goings-on, we'll be talking to the some of the people who are actually in the audience. We start off every conversation with the simple question: how did you hear about this show? And be sure to check out more of our Meet The Jazz Audience series. —Ed.


Don Byrd, 66
with a cameo from poet/jazz maven Steve Dalachinsky
Performer: John Tchicai Ensemble
Venue: Zebulon (Williamsburg, Brooklyn)
Event: CareFusion Jazz Festival New York
Date: Jun. 21, 2010

Don Byrd i

Don Byrd of Albany, N.Y. Patrick Jarenwattananon/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Patrick Jarenwattananon/NPR
Don Byrd

Don Byrd of Albany, N.Y.

Patrick Jarenwattananon/NPR

Steve Dalachinsky [interrupting]: What's this guy doing?

Don Byrd [to Dalachinsky]: He's [from] NPR.

I'm just asking people questions. Dalachinsky: What are you asking them?

Just asking them: 'How did you hear about this show?' Other crowd member: I heard about it from him [points to Dalachinsky]. Byrd: Yea. This guy knows about all the shows.

Dalachinsky: There's about 30 people in here who heard about it from me. And I'm not bragging. [laughter] I heard about it completely accidentally, and I'm friends with those guys [on stage]. So that's how bad the advertising is. No, actually, I saw this show in the CareFusion brochure.

Oh yea? And you were just— Dalachinsky: Yea. They're actually doing a big band [performance] tomorrow — that's the one I found out about accidentally, actually.

Accidentally? Dalachinsky: Well, a friend of mine in the band tomorrow is on Facebook, and he sent out a Facebook [invitation]. And I — begrudgingly, unhappily and hatefully — admit that I'm on Facebook. But ask Don [Byrd]. Don is older than me; he can give you much more intellectual answers than I can. I just saw the microphone, and I'm a real pig.

So you're telling a lot of people ... Dalachinsky: I'm involved with another music festival that's happening [the Vision Festival], and I don't want to take anything away from them, but the people who own this club are friends of mine, and they're very generous about the way they present their music. And last night and tonight, people I know well personally and musically, and who I love, happened to be playing here. There's another great gig here [at Zebulon] on Wednesday that I'm not telling anybody about because that'll impede too much on the Vision Festival. They'll have to find out about that one by themselves, but that'll be a great gig too.

You know, I'm not much into big festivals like most of what George Wein does, but when they kind of reach out to neighborhoods, and smaller venues, which they never really used to do way back then, I think it's really good for all of us. [George Wein is the chief producer of the CareFusion Jazz Festival New York. —Ed.] Particularly me and Don. I mean, it's really important. The Vision Festival tries to do it more too, where you can incorporate the neighborhood into the festival. And in Wein's case, he kind of really branched out this year all over the place.

[Realizing who I'm talking to] Sir, I believe I've seen you perform before at the Vision Festival. Mr. Dalachinsky, is it? Dalachinsky: Yea, here's my lawyer's phone number. Yea, that's me unfortunately.

Well, thank you sir. My name is Patrick Jarenwattananon, and I'm here with NPR's A Blog Supreme Dalachinsky: You mean really NPR?

Like, really NPR. Dalachinsky: God, anytime anybody talks to me from NPR, they usually throw that tape away. So I don't know. This is Don. Don is a poet ...

Byrd: So what are you working toward? ... What do you want to do?

Well, I'm just going around New York trying to get audience reactions. I'm trying to find out who's going to these concerts all over the city. Byrd: They've very bunched up [the concerts]. There's also good music [a Vision Festival event] going on on Houston Street right now that I would also like to be at ... You know, the Vision Festival pulls people in from all over. David is from Toronto; Larry is from Baltimore. [gestures toward companions] I'm more or less from Albany — I'm part-time here, but ...

All you folks are here from all over the place for the Vision Festival and related events? Byrd: I can't speak for other people, but I come every year, yes. I'm here for other reasons this year as well, but I've been coming to the Vision Festival since the late '90s, sometime.

So how did you hear about this particular performance here? Byrd: Well, literally we were at a Vision Festival event, and Steve told me.

And what did you think? Byrd: Well, I mean, John Tchicai is one of the great jazzmen of the last 40, 50 years. And he's got a wonderful group of young musicians here — mostly very young musicians. And he's managing to get them to really make music. You can tell that he has this kind of force ...

How did you get interested in jazz in the first place? Byrd: I just was telling this story to these guys [gestures to his two companions] earlier: In junior high school, I had a music appreciation teacher who had given up a career as a jazz musician. And he would come into class, and sit down at a piano, and say, "This is 'Body And Soul.' This is the way Thelonious Monk would play it. This is the way Bud Powell would play it." And so on.

There was no looking back from there. Byrd: No. That was eighth grade.

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