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Chris Byars: News

Writing for WDR!!! - June 23, 2014

I've been chosen as a guest artist with the WDR, one of the leading jazz orchestras of the world. I'll be in Cologne, Germany from September 2-5, working with their excellent musicians on an hour of newly-arranged music!

"Music of Duke Jordan" release date - June 13, 2014

I've just been informed that Chris Byars: The Music of Duke Jordan will be released on SteepleChase records August 2014! This CD features 11 songs with new, innovative arrangements and some exciting performances by musicians new to the New York jazz scene. And even my Mom is on it! The personnel is below. I hope you'll buy our CD! Thank you!

Chris Byars: The Music of Duke Jordan

Chris Byars - alto saxophone, arrangements
John Mosca - trombone
Stefano Doglioni - bass clarinet
Pasquale Grasso - guitar
Ari Roland - bass
Stefan Schatz - drums

with special guests
Yaala Ballin - vocals (and lyrics!)
Janita Byars - clarinet
Mine Sadrazam - piano

Chris Byars Chosen to Head New Summer Jazz Program! - February 17, 2014

Well, I must say I'm quite flattered! I love coming to Cyprus, I love playing and teaching jazz, and I love the musicians in Cyprus, but putting all of this together into a summer jazz program is really a dream come true. Big thanks to Yiannis Hadjiloizou for having this inspiring vision.

Something very special and unusual about this summer program: jazz students will room, eat, study and perform alongside opera, ballet and classical music students. A portion of the curriculum will be collaborative. Imagine the growth potential of everyone learning from each other and working together, in a beautiful setting!

And how about this, for modern times? Instead of costly travel, or even the annoying shipping charge of "demo tapes", interested students must only demonstrate their abilities through an audition video, post to a private youtube link, and send to I'll review these personally and determine if the student and the program are right for each other. When I was a student, we had to travel to these places to find out whether or not we could participate!

Please spread the word to jazz musicians ages 15-30, who would be interested in this summer program.

Cyprus Academy of Music Summer School & Festival
Rodon Mountain Hotel and Resort, Agros Village
Troodos Mountains, Cyprus
July 20 - August 10

Jazz in January - January 22, 2013

On January 13th, I premiered "The Riverdale Suite", a half-hour of original music for intermingled jazz sextet and orchestra. Our collaborating partner was The Riverdale Sinfonietta, conducted by Mark Mandarano. Everyone played so well! Only five days later, the Chris Byars Quintet recorded a new CD for SteepleChase Records entitled "Jasmine Flower", featuring 7 originals and 3 jazz interpretations of folk songs from around the world. This is slated for a November 2013 release - I will keep you in the loop!

I was so happy to be joined on both these projects by my father, James Byars on oboe, and my girlfriend, Mine Sadrazam on piano. They are both classical musicians with big ears for jazz - their efforts were very musically inspiring! Of course, Ari Roland, Stefan Schatz, John Mosca, Stefano Doglioni and Phil Stewart turned in stellar performances, the challenge lies in not taking them for granted!

Jazz on the Silk Road 2012! - January 1, 2013
Happy Jazz New Year, everybody! 2012 was a great year for Jazz Diplomacy, with visits to Bosnia, Cyprus, Poland, Lebanon, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Georgia, Turkey and China. Please check the wordpress website that I maintained during some of the travel.

Headed to Bosnia - February 6, 2012

I'm packing my suitcase for a late February trip that includes Bosnia and Cyprus. I hope to see some old friends and meet lots of new ones.

Spring Tour for U.S. State Dept. - April 18, 2011

Hello Everyone,
Thanks for checking in. Although my New York appearances have been limited, the international schedule is stepping up.
Here 'tis:
April 24 - 30
Vietnam! I'm playing in Hanoi and Saigon with the Ari Roland Quartet. I'm learning some Vietnamese, and will try to announce the set in their native language.
May 1 - 8 Saudi Arabia!
We're headed to Riyadh, Jeddah and Dhahran to play some jazz. Zaid Nasser takes over leadership, and there's bound to be some great music written by the great American Muslim composer Gigi Gryce (Basheer Qusim).
May 15 - 20 Cyprus
Completing our fourth year of the "Jazz Futures Bicommunal Workshop," we've been to Cyprus so many times that we've stopped counting.
May 21-28 - Turkey! Including that hotbed of international intrigue, EASTERN Turkey.
May 28 - June 4th - Bulgaria
They say shopska salad is best at this time year

Thank you!!! - January 1, 2011

To all the voters in the DownBeat Reader's Poll:
Thanks!!! I placed in all three categories!!! I'm deeply flattered.

DownBeat 75th Annual Reader's Poll - August 4, 2010

Well, this is interesting news, indeed. I'm nominated for voting in three categories for this year's DownBeat Reader's Poll. If you'd like to add a vote for Chris Byars in the Composer category, Flute category, or Clarinet category, please visit their home page at
Tip: if you're not a DownBeat Magazine subscriber, you can register for their newsletter at no cost - this makes you eligible to vote in the poll. And when you register, you only need to confirm your e-mail - all that personal info stuff is OPTIONAL. Also, you don't have to vote in every category, if you're in a hurry.

Thanks for voting! It only takes 3 minutes.

New Music on iTunes - March 10, 2010

March 10th is the official release date for "Bop-ography" - the new Chris Byars Quartet recording - for download at the iTunes store. Please check it out and spend your 99 cents as frivolously as a kid in a candy store. In this CD, there are three musical areas to choose from. There is music from Gigi Gryce (an afterthought from the Blue Lights CD); there are two additions to the "Jazz Pictures" canon, Chris Byars originals; and the big gorilla, "Bop-ography", a 20-minute juggernaut that was a CMA New Works commission (which officially makes me an award-winning composer). Please log in and send this to the top of the jazz charts! It doesn't take much these days; like a vote in a local election, every download makes a big impact!

Chris Byars Quartet Returns to Syria for 3rd time in 12 months! - March 9, 2010

The Chris Byars Quartet is very excited about our upcoming tour. Starting March 22nd, we begin a Syrian Jazz Adventure that takes us to Damascus, Homs, Latakia and Aleppo. We will perform free concerts and give educational workshops. Our recent experiences have shown us that the ideal jazz audience is a Syrian jazz audience. Performances in clubs are wild fun; concerts are electric and intense. The workshops are great because we are starting from the beginning - there are no bad habits to unlearn!

In our first visit, I discovered how much we had in common with the Syrians, as people; in our second, I learned how much we can respect each other and work together. I wonder what unfold in this third visit. Stay tuned...I will be blogging in real time.

Chris Byars Octet Re-emerging! - March 6, 2010

After a three year hiatus, The Chris Byars Octet is re-surfacing. Last weekend, All About Jazz NY's "Label of the Year" (for 2009) SteepleChase recorded 60 minutes of new (or previously unheard) tunes, for an upcoming release entitled "The Chris Byars Octet Plays the Music of Lucky Thompson". The rough mixes show that this will be a very enjoyable CD!

Here's the personnel for 2010:
Chris Byars (tenor saxophone)
Zaid Nasser (alto saxophone)
Mark Lpeman (baritone saxophone)
Scott Wendholt (trumpet)
John Mosca (trombone)
Sacha Perry (piano)
Ari Roland (bass)
Stefan Schatz (drums)

Check out our new band picture in the "Photos" section. We'll be playing at Smalls sometime early Summer 2010.

The Award-Winning Chris Byars Quartet - January 15, 2010

We won the ASCAP/CMA Award for Adventurous Programming, for the 2008/2009 season. They give one award per category, and we were the jazz winners. Thank you, ASCAP, and thank you Chamber Music America!

stay tuned in 2010 - December 31, 2009

Happy New Jazz Year to all you music lovers!! Thank you for keeping jazz in your life. 2009 was an incredible year for the Chris Byars Quartet. We toured the Middle East for the Rhythm Road, played a return engagement in Damascus, recorded with Teddy Charles, and released a new SteepleChase CD dedicated to the music of Gigi Gryce.

We'll build on this in 2010. Upcoming projects include New York nightclub appearances with master composer/pianist Freddie Redd, and a Tribute to Lucky Thompson CD featuring the Chris Byars Octet. Bop-ography, starring the Chris Byars Quartet and special guests Teddy Charles and James Byars, will be released by SteepleChase records in April. And there will be many more surprises to come. Please see the "music" section for the latest addition, a jazz arrangement of Syrian folksong "Bali Maak" which is taken from a live performance in Damascus.

Thanks again for a great 2009...see you in "Twenty-Ten"!

Chris Byars at Joe's Pub - October 20, 2009

Thanks to the benefits of jetlag, I'm up early this morning, getting a head start on the presentation at Joe's Pub. It's going to be a real mash-up. We'll combine the music of Gigi Gryce, anecdotes of his compelling life story, and music from our recent road trips. I just found out yesterday that Joe's Pub will accommodate a slideshow, so...why not? We'll be giving a full visual component to our concert as well.

I hope the audience gives us a warm "welcome back." After all...we are New Yorkers.

What's next after this? A huge 30-day tour starting the week of Thanksgiving, visiting Cyprus, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Syria and Turkey. Back in time for Santa Claus.

CB feature in AAJ - September 30, 2009

Hello everyone. In case there's something you don't already know about me, you can read about it in the most extensive media coverage of Chris Byars to date.
By the way, the photo credits are all incorrect. My apologies to anyone who has ever taken my picture.

Bop in Bahrain - April 2, 2009

We are currently in Bahrain, encountering great hospitality and sincere cultural interest. What a wonderful place to be. Our first program day included a morning workshop and an evening concert, both of which focused on the music of American Muslim jazz giant Basheer Qusim (also known as Gigi Gryce). For more on this story, please follow the link to the tour site, which is unpdated throughout the month of April:

2009 is heating up - February 7, 2009

Hello Fans,
After a slow start it's looking like another fantastic year for jazz, travel, composing and collaborating with great artists.
After two quick trips to Cyprus in February and March, continuing their inspiring Jazz Futures workshop, I am delighted to announce the Teddy Charles performance series "Word From Bird" which takes place at Iridium from March 19 through 22. This will feature the newly-commissioned "Bop-ography" performed by The Chris Byars Quartet, Teddy Charles and special guest James Byars (oboe/English horn). Also performing is the Teddy Charles Tentet and a small group of All-Stars consisting of Teddy Charles, Hank Jones, Bob Cranshaw and Kenny Washington. As if this weren't enough, the Quartet squeezes in two free performances during those same days, one in Washington DC, and on at Dizzy's Club in New York. How is that possible? Check the Calendar page. The next weekend is no picnic either: After two evening performances with Freddie Redd at Smalls, the Chris Byars Quartet stumblies into the studio to record a new CD for Steeplechase, with Teddy Charles and James Byars as special guests. Four days later, the Quartet finds itself at JFK Airport, embarking on a 29-day tour of the Middle East and Morocco, sponsored by the U.S. State Department.

New liner notes to CD - April 21, 2008

OK. I've gotten some press lately that declares there is no discernable musical relationship to Himalayan Art on my recent CD, "Jazz Pictures at an Exhibition of Himalayan Art."

NPR claims this, and states that it "stands on its own," which is flattering, thank you:
...and a live review of our recent concert in today's New York Sun says something similar.

First, I want to answer this statement by saying: this project involves a lot of original music and a lot of visual art that is foreign to American eyes. The last thing your interpretation needs is a pre-digested formula for understanding it. I want each listener/viewer to arrive at their own relationship to the work. Let each individual's cross-associations become a pathway to understanding themselves and raising consciousness. This is why there are no liner notes on the CD, instead, only the pictures. This is why I didn't announce every tune last Friday at the Rubin Museum. With all that music and all that artwork, why do we need talking????

But since you're here...and as an intrepid internet information seeker, you deserve to be rewarded with some nuggets of knowledge, here is the the only existing "answer key" to Jazz Pictures at an Exhibition of Himalayan Art.

1. The Better to See You. This three-eyed mask stares the viewer in the face, inspiring either fear or laughter. Imagine who would wear this mask? I think it would be a rascal, a scoundrel that has questionable intentions but is still loads of fun. The music conveys this sense of personality by employing the Blues structure in unconventional ways.

2. Tonpa Shenrab. The painting is done in a narrative style. Your eye must trace the journey of the subject (the founder of the Bon Religion) through his life as he wanders through the frame. This 11-minute song depicts parts of his life that I could discern from the painting: a royal upbringing (intro), a journey (the melody), an awakening (short horn soli right before the alto solo), his teachings (solos), a struggle with a demon (trading with the drummer!) and finally an abrupt ending that you don't really see coming.

3. Blues Under the Boddhi Tree. The monk pictured becomes Stefan Schatz, our drummer. He plays this tune on a dholak, a North Indian hand drum. It's relaxed. You have to be relaxed to sit under the Boddhi Tree.

4. Buddha Shakyamuni. This statue of the founder of Buddhism sits high, calm and proud. This is specifically expressed in notes the melody, as played by the soprano. The counterpoint provided by the other horns serves to provide a challenge, then eventually, an accompaniment to the melody. The bridge is passed to the English Horn, which temporarily takes on all properties of the top melodic instrument. The solo section is only four bars long, mimicking the Buddhist concept that there are many lives that fit into one existence.

5. Arhat. In the painting, two figures are shown, one directly above the other in some sort of parallel dimension. These become the tenor and trombone. They are interchangeable. You don't know where one ends and the other begins. You don't know who's above who. They are constantly switching.

6. Chakrasamvara. In the most obvious nod to Asian culture, the band plays an entire nine-minute piece with no detectable tempo. The visual art is a beautiful red Mandala, an item to be stared at, meditated upon for hours. This is why time stands still and there is no musical tempo. Listen as Stefan paints the elements to different solos: the English horn is Wood; the trombone and flute are Wind; the tenor saxophone is Earth.

7. Rahula. This great teacher is shown meditating in perfect balance with nature. The melody shows this balance in it's relation from root to fifth: the first phrase emphasizes the flatted fifth, the second brings out the sixth. I hear it swinging like a pendulum and showing a kind of melodic balance. Abstract? You betcha. Unrelated to the artwork? NOT.

8. Just Ask. The painting depicts a teacher and student. Who better to feature than my father, a prolific teacher. The song is structured in question-and-answer form. Listen to the educational dialogue. Somehow, we manage to play five instruments in the course of this duet.

9. Whispered Tradition. The Bon religion had a school of monks that passed their teachings down orally, without ever assigning an author's name to their beloved philosophy. Two qualities stood out for me in this historical fact: the worth the assigned to their teachings, and the anonymity of the monks themselves. The golden mask chosen as the representative artwork embodies both of these elements. Listen to the horns as they pass the teachings of the Whispered Tradition amongst each other.

In conclusion, I think you'll find that this is a deeper interpretation than the one they were looking for. Yes, Stefan hits a gong or two occasionally, but it's JAZZ that we're playing and jazz that we're going to stick to. Music is associated with contexts by experience and an open mind. I see the visual to each of these every time I hear the music, just like you think of candles and cake when you hear Happy Birthday.

Please enjoy!!

Live at the VILLAGE VANGUARD - March 27, 2008

Last night I stood with Teddy Charles on my right side and my father on my left. We played Gigi Gryce's Sans Souci. My Dad added a sweet double-reed middle voice to our trombone/flute frontline; the intro was a three-part sustained choir, then the melody was flute/oboe unison with trombone commentary. Then Teddy took a masterful solo, filled with daring melodic unpredictability. All on the stage of the Village Vanguard, the world's greatest jazz club. And we get to do it four more nights!

On The Rhythm Road Again - February 24, 2008

Go to
Hello Jazz Fans, from across the globe!

I used to be proud just to be Across 7 Street! Now I'm in a hotel room in Slovakia, preparing for a MID tomorrow (Maximum Impact Day). We'll be meeting twenty jazz musicians from the local scene for a 90 minute workshop in the morning; a live television interview where I'll be doing my absolute best to appear coherent; and an evening concert to a packed house in this beautiful "old city" section of Bratislava.

As a group we absolutely love Bratislava. It is beautiful. Please visit the link above for some photos, as well as a daily update on the status of our mission: to improve our national image through the subtle art of cultural exchange. 29 days that will change many lives!

Jazz Pictures at an Exhibition of Himalayan Art - February 4, 2008

Happy 2008, everybody!

I just got the advanced pressing of THE NEW CHRIS BYARS QUARTET CD, "JAZZ PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION OF HIMALAYAN ART." Smalls Records did a great job of bottling this concept for mass consumption, I love what I'm seeing and hearing. This release has great potential of accessibility to new audiences; it incorporates visual art and exotic culture into the jazz idiom. It's all composed by yours truly, and I'm very proud to welcome my father into the band as a special guest on oboe/English horn. We'll have an encore live performance at the Rubin Museum on April 18th, with the quartet, my Dad and the slideshow of the cool images on the cherry-wood backdrop of the auditorium.

Please let me know your thoughts on this CD, which will be available as of March 11th. Sign the guestbook with your feedback, or send me an e-mail. I want to know how this modern re-vamping of "Pictures at an Exhibition" is experienced by the diverse, informed listening perspectives that exist in our world today. You know, the music doesn't happen on the CD - it happens in your brain. I'm very curious to know how this is received by each and every one of you out there!

Jazz Legend Joins Band - October 9, 2007

Yes, it's true, Teddy Charles is the Special Guest with the Chris Byars Quartet this weekend. Joining myself, Ari Roland, John Mosca and Stefan Schatz, Teddy will make his debut at the Greenwich Village jazz club this Friday and Saturday at 10 pm. We'll put forth a combination of standards and originals (mostly Teddy Charles compositions) that will make a seldom heard but beautiful group sound, based around the vibraphone.

Good Will Tour - September 13, 2007

The Ari Roland Quartet visits Russia [one more time!!] next week, Sept. 17-27. I'll be joining Ari, pianist Sacha Perry and drummer Phil Stewart and special guest vocalist Marion Cowings, on a tour of Sochi, Krasnodar, Rostov-on-Don and Moscow. Sochi is the site of an upcoming Olympics, and every Russian tells me, awe-struck: "you're going to September." It's supposedly very beautiful. I heard St. Petersburg mentioned too but I'm not entirely sure it's happening.

I'm going to sandwich in a whole lot of composing on the off-hours with my laptop; I've got to get ready for the "Jazz Pictures at an Exhibition of Himalayan Art" original program in October. Hmmm...I wonder what the Russians think of me borrowing Mussourgsky's idea?

I can't wait to play for those enthusiastic, knowledgeable well-informed Russian audiences! I'll post some news from over there, pictures too.

The tour is sponsored by ExxonMobil; I never figured them to be a big jazz supporter, but here they go!

Rhythm Road in Christian Science Monitor! - September 7, 2007
Moises Velasquez Manoff, a young but diligent journalist, wrote a very hip article detailing some of my latest activities with the Ari Roland Quartet. Dig the hip new interactive look for news articles...scrolling slideshows, an MP3 interview of Ari Roland (and little me!) and my first ever published photo credit!! Since nobody State-side ever really knows what goes on with the State Department overseas, this is your best chance to see it...without coming along. Unless you want to go to my "Jazz On The Silk Road" website (see Links).

By the way, James Chirillo and I, with help from his wife Valerie Levy on violin, played a tribute to Luciano Pavarotti last night at Franco's. It was a perfect setting - surrounded by Italians who barely restrained themselves from singing along. In addition to some Italian popular songs, we played "Nessun Dorma," Pavarotti's signature aria that he sang for the world at the 2002 Olympic Opening Ceremonies in Torino.
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