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Tuskegee Experiments


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Audio CD, February 4, 1992
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Editorial Reviews

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Clarinetist-composer Don Byron declared his liberation from the tyrannies of both style and history with this 1992 release, one of the most significant debut recordings of the 1990s. The sheer span of Byron's musical reach is awe-inspiring, including Ellington's "Mainstem" and Robert Schumann's tender "Auf Eiener Burg" in a program that ranges from the klezmer-suffused "Waltz for Ellen," an unaccompanied solo, to the Latin beat of "Next Love." Part of the album's magnificence, too, is just how extraordinarily well Byron plays the clarinet. He's joined by a shifting cast of sidemen that includes several regular associates, like bassist Reggie Workman, for the atmospheric dialogue with bass clarinet on "In Memoriam: Uncle Dan," pianist Edsel Gomez, and guitarist Bill Frisell, whose bending, soaring electric-guitar solos often match Byron's own leaping, virtuosic performances. The title track, with a powerful reading by the poet Sadiq, is a riveting poem inspired by the notorious "Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male." The grotesque medical experiment provides a subject potent enough to make the fusion of jazz and poetry work, melding the two into one. --Stuart Broomer

1. Waltz for Ellen
2. Tuskegee Strutter's Ball
3. In Memoriam: Uncle Dan
4. Next Love
5. Tears
6. Mainstem
7. Diego Rivera
8. Tuskegee Experiment
9. Auf Einer Burg

Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 4, 1992)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B000005J1A
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #311,530 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By bimwa on February 25, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Despite being one of his lesser known albums, this is possibly Don Byron's most beautiful. It features amazing tunes, mostly Byron originals but also Duke Ellington's "Mainstem" and Robert Schumann's "Auf Eiener Burg". Byron's playing is as always tasteful, virtuosic and full of life. His support cast is also fantastic. Particularly noteworthy is Bill Frisell who features on some of the album's highlights, the funky latin "Next Love" and the very emotional, aptly named "Tears". A wonderful, varied album.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By G.A. on November 5, 2011
Format: MP3 Music Verified Purchase
Don Byron is an amazing clarinet player and a very interesting composer. In this album he exercises his skills with a small tight group (tracks 2,4,5,6), solo or almost solo (1,3,9) and "other", like the spoken-word title track. I think it was somewhat typical of the 90's, when a musician had a chance to record a solo album he'd put in all his styles and various projects, knowing that there may not be a chance to record a second one... which often makes for uneven, but very interesting albums). But Byron's clarinet, which is powerful and expressive, bridges the different moods and styles, and makes it cohesive.

In tracks 2-4-5-6, the group has Bill Frisell (guitar) Lonnie Plaxico (bass) and the gigantic Ralph Peterson Jr. on drums, plus Edsel Gomez (piano) on 4+5. These tracks are fantastic, each member capable of imposing his will on the whole group so the give-and-take is often relentless.

"Diego Rivera" is the most free-form track on the album (with Greta Buck on violin). "Tuskegee Experiment" is built around Sadiq's furious recitation of a poem about the horrific story from our American history. It's hard to talk about the music in this track because the words are so painful, but as throughout the album, Byron's clarinet speaks with human-like power and expressiveness.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By James Ferguson VINE VOICE on June 1, 2006
Format: Audio CD
This CD still resonates with me today, Don Byron really tapped into something special in his debut outing, which he hasn't quite been able to capture since. While the CD loosely revolves around his feelings regarding the Tuskegee Experiments and race in general, there are many departures here. The music is as broad as Byron's expansive range of instruments, echoing Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet, alto sax and flute. Reggie Workman, Bill Frisell and Ralph Peterson (check out Ornettology from the same time frame) lend stellar support. Hard to believe this was nearly 15 years ago.
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