Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, John Kirby and Raymond Scott all employed groundbreaking compositional techniques that both bewitched the public and critics alike. With Bug Music, clarinetist Don Byron, an inventor and innovator in his own right, has reexamined this substantial body of American music. Rather than simply playing the tunes as note-for-note recreations, Byron has chosen to "recognize 'out' ideas in other composers, recycle them and synthesize something new within the circumstances of their own era and genre; to combine information from outside sources with one's individual sense of what is possible." (Byron, from the liner note). Bug Music is another of Byron's explorations into the possibilities of ensemble music. Byron further expands this reputation by viewing this body of work in a way that has not been done before - as another framework that describes the potential of improvisatory and scored music, from yesterday and tomorrow.
When Duke Ellington began to slip classical motifs and structures into his jazz compositions in the '30s, two fellow composers took his example as a challenge to do the same. Raymond Scott played movie music, led the house band on the popular radio show, "Your Hit Parade," and supplied much of the music for Carl Stalling's famous cartoon scores; John Kirby led a jazz combo that included Ben Webster, Russell Procope and Charlie Shavers. All three bandleaders are saluted on Bug Music
. The music inside is playful and joyful, with Byron's clarinet skipping and jumping through the catchy melodies and quirky rhythms. In fact, what's most striking about the recording is not the mix of jazz and classical music, but the mix of jazz and humor, an all too rare combination these days. --Geoffrey Himes