For well over a decade, Don Byron has been a singular voice in an astounding range of musical contexts, exploring widely divergent traditions while continually striving for what he calls a sound above genre. As clarinetist, saxophonist, composer, arranger, and social critic, he redefines every genre of music he plays, be it classical, salsa, hip-hop, funk, rhythm & blues, klezmer, or any jazz style from swing and bop to cutting-edge downtown improvisation. He has been consistently voted best clarinetist by critics and readers alike in leading international music journals since being named Jazz Artist of the Year by Down Beat in 1992. Acclaimed as much for his restless creativity as for his unsurpassed virtuosity as a player, Byron has presented a multitude of projects at major music festivals around the world, including recent performances in Vienna, San Francisco, Hong Kong, London, Monterey, New Zealand, and on New York's Broadway.
BEGINNINGS: Born and raised in the Bronx, Byron was exposed to a wide variety of music by his father, who played bass in calypso bands, and his mother, a pianist. His taste was further refined by trips to the symphony and ballet and by many hours spent listening to Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Machito recordings. He formalized his music education by studying classical clarinet with Joe Allard while playing and arranging salsa numbers for high school bands on the side. He later studied with George Russell in the Third Stream Department of the New England Conservatory of Music and, while in Boston, also performed with Latin and jazz ensembles.