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4.2 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 21, 2004
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Ivey-Divey by Don Byron

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Clarinetist Don Byron's albums frequently reflect an ongoing battle for control between two sides of his artistic identity: the virtuoso instrumentalist and shrewd conceptualist. Sometimes, in mounting his concepts, which have ranged from a tribute to klezmer king Mickey Katz to an album of tunes by offbeat '30s bandleaders John Kirby and Raymond Scott, he hasn't given his playing free enough rein. With Ivey-Divey, inspired in part by a great 1946 album teaming tenor legend Lester Young with pianist Nat King Cole and drummer Buddy Rich, Byron gives each side of his talent a fair shake. Honoring his source, he offers his own luminous take on tunes from it including "I Cover the Waterfront" and "I've Found a New Baby." While paying homage to Young, though, he cuts loose to deliver his freest and most dazzling performance on record. Emphatic where Young was famously laid back, soaring where Young floated, he joins forces with the brilliant, adaptable young pianist Jason Moran and fearsome drummer Jack DeJohnette (sounding great these days, having pared back his excesses) to create a classic of his own. No standard-issue tribute, Ivey-Divey includes intriguing reworkings of two Miles Davis classics, "Freddie Freeloader" (from Kind of Blue) and "In a Silent Way," and the gleeful original "'Leopold, Leopold ... ,'" a nod to Bugs Bunny's impersonation of conductor Leopold Stokowski. Then there's the boogie woogie classic "The Goon Drag," on which Byron gives a rare sampling of his sound on tenor, joined by trumpeter Ralph Alessi and bassist Lonnie Plaxico. Everything's ivey-divey, and hunky dory as well. --Lloyd Sachs
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 21, 2004)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: BLUE NOTE
  • Run Time: 74 minutes
  • ASIN: B0002UY8W4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #185,228 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
"Ivey-Divey" may very well be clarinetist Don Byron's finest album since his debut over a decade ago. Where most of his previous albums seem to have been stylistically limited by genre conventions in order to properly market them, this effort showcases Byron the improvisor instead of Byron the conceptualist.

Joined by piano phenomenon Jason Moran and elder statesman and masterful drummer Jack DeJohnette, Byron and co. stretch out on a varied selection of tunes, half of them old standards associated with Lester Young, who also once lead a similar bass-less trio. But this is no nostalgic look back to jazz's humbler origins. Classic standards are torn asunder and re-imagined as vehicles for extended improvisation. Nothing is sacred on this disc. Even an old chestnut like "Somebody Loves Me" gets deconstructed and utilized as a springboard for intensive rhythmic, harmonic and melodic free-interplay. An acoustic take on Miles Davis' electric classic "In a Silent Way" provides the group with a launching pad into the stratosphere, transforming the original ambient melody into an anthem of catharsis. It is in their expansion and elaboration of these tunes that their interpretive skills come to the fore. Although the group is occasionally joined by bass and trumpet it is the core trio and their telepathic interplay that dominate the proceedings here.

Easily one of the best jazz albums to come out so far this year, Byron finally makes good on all the promise alluded to on albums past by finally delivering the goods.
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Format: Audio CD
Ivey Divey is primarily a trio album with Byron on clarient & bass clarinet, Jason Moran on piano, and Jack Dejohnette on drums. Ralph Alessi (trumpet) and Lonnie Plaxico (bass) join in as guests on a few tunes as well. Throughout the album Moran, Dejohnette, and Byron have amazing chemistry as they play off each other's every move. The arrangements of classic tunes (I Want to Be Happy, Somebody loves me, I've found a new Baby, Freddie Freeloader, and In a Silent way) are creative and classic. Who would have thought a trio could pull off in a silent way, but it's done brilliantly here. The overall sound is post bop, with a 30's swing feel and a little flare of avante garde. This is my second favorite Don Byron album (after Bug Music).

Song Highlights:

In a Silent Way: Wow! where do I start with this one. Just a killer arrangement for a trio (Bryon, Moran, & Dejohnette). Byron opens with reflective clarient, and Dejohnette, taps a wide array of symbols for an emotional intro which culminates in passionate screams from Byron's clarient. Next the faster pace section begins which Dejohnette hitting the drums and Moran just doing a killer take of the faster melody on the low keys of his keyboard. Absolutely classic.

I've found a new Baby: One of my favorite standards. This is a great take, once again done by the trio. It's got kind of a 30's swing feel to it, and reminds me a bit of the mood and feel from Bug Music. Passionate playing abounds from Byron.

The Goon Drag: The best of the originals on the CD. Features the full band (R.Alessi + L. Plaxico join the trio). It's got a swing feel with a melody that features inter-twining horn parts. Once again reminds me a bit of the feel of bug music. Ralph Alessi has a great tone on the trumpet and he is my favorite contemporary trumpet player after Dave Douglas. He plays well with Byron.
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Format: Audio CD
As a vehicle for the playing of Don Byron, this CD is, as others have said, just marvelous. For those who have hungered for Don unleashed, this is the place to find him. And Jason Moran and Jack DeJohnette bring to the date their considerable arsenal of skills.

That said, I had a hard time warming up to this CD. It's one of those I bought, listened to once, and then didn't listen to again for a long time. I think it's that I couldn't get past the lack of a bass presence on the first five cuts. (Lonnie Plaxico plays on 6-9 and 11, five of the 13 cuts.) There's nothing wrong with those first five pieces: great playing by all involved, solid interplay. But there just seemed to be a big hole where a bass should have been.

This is odd, because among jazz CDs I love are several that don't feature bass players--Marc Copland's "That's For Sure," Enrico Rava's "Tati", among others. But those CDs feature mostly ruminative, meditative music, and--perhaps crucially--no drummer. In other words, you don't come to them with an expectation of a strong rhythm section. But when you've signed on the force of nature called Jack DeJohnette--well, you've got a different set of expectations. I'm wanting to hear Jack grooving with a Dave Holland, a Gary Peacock, a Christian McBride, and I can't NOT miss that.

So it's something of a relief when Plaxico comes on board--though I wish he had been brought up in the mix and been more involved in the music; he seems relegated to a strictly background role. (No, I'm not a bass player!) And when he leaves the stage, again, I miss his presence.

I've now listened to this CD four or five times, and I'm liking it better each time (it does take a while to absorb); it will definitely stay in my collection.
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