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Jimmy Lyons

Imagine what Sonny Stitt might have sounded like had he embraced free jazz after mastering bebop, and one can probably conjure a pretty good mental impression of Jimmy Lyons. Like Stitt, Lyons was enamoured of Charlie Parker's style, particularly in terms of phrasing. Lyons' slippery, bop-derived rhythms and melodic contours lent his improvisations a Charlie “Bird” Parker-like cast, even as his performance contexts were more harmonically free. Lyons made his reputation playing with pianist Cecil Taylor, with whom he became inextricably linked. He was a near-constant presence in Taylor's bands from 1960 until the saxophonist's death in 1986. Lyons always lent an explicitly swinging element to the pianist's music, helping remind the listener most emphatically that — regardless of how much Taylor may have been influenced by European art music — this was unquestionably jazz.

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