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Dwarsliggers & Buitenbeentjes

tue 13 dec 2022 18:00 CET

Criss-cross through Fred Dubiez’ record cabinet.

In the programme Dwarsliggers & Buitenbeentjes, I will devote a couple of broadcasts to maverick Billy Byers. Not precisely a world-famous jazz musician, but I keep fond memories of Billy Byers. When I started collecting jazz records 66 years ago, the elpee Byers’ Guide (recorded in early 1956 by the US label Concert Hall) was the first record that came into my possession. A short time later, the same record was released as New Sounds in Swing on the Jazztone label.
I have played this album countless times, and the performances of the six band members are etched in my musical memory: Joe Newman (trumpet), Billy Byers (trombone), Gene Quill (alto sax and clarinet), Lou Stein (piano and celesta), Milt Hinton (bass) and Osie Johnson (drums).
In this first broadcast, I first play three short pieces from the album Byers’ Guide, which I cherish so much, and then go back to early 1949: eight pieces (on the Discovery label) by the band of the assertive Georgie Auld, we hear how the 21-year-old trombonist Billy Byers plays a confident starring role alongside the powerhouse, Georgie Auld.
We take another leap in time, ending up in October 1954 with the East Coast-West Coast Scene (RCA) album. Shorty Rogers is the leader of the West Coast band; Al Cohn is the boss of the East Coast band. In this 11-man band, apart from Billy Byers, we meet Joe Newman, Gene Quill, Milt Hinton and Osie Johnson, those legendary vedettes from my first album. Two of the three pieces also feature trombonist, Eddie Bert. It is striking to hear that.
Byers and Bert were clearly influenced by the distinctly theatrical trombonist Bill Harris, who alternately operated as a boisterous lyricist and a sensitive raucous performer. However, in one respect, Byers and Bert did differ significantly: Billy Byers increasingly abandoned the trombone to eventually become a full-time arranger in the early 1960s. At the same time, Eddie Bert remained active as a trombonist and a teacher until his death. Eddie Bert died in September 2012 at the age of 90, while Billy Byers died in May 1996 on his 69th birthday.

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