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  •  BAND: DON BYRON AND EXISTENTIAL DRED

      Don Byron and Existential Dred
    You could do verse

    Clarinetist Don Byron has formed a perfect union of poetry and jazz.

    By JOSHUA TANZER
    Offoffoff.com


    The clarinet is not the only wonderful but unjustly neglected thing that Don Byron has dug up from jazz tradition and made new again. Byron rediscovered and updated the joyfully quirky Warner Brothers cartoon music of Raymond Scott on his album "Bug Music" a few years ago, and most recently he has reunited jazz with poetry in a marriage that goes back at least as far as the Beat poets (think Jack Kerouac and Steve Allen) but now has a new kind of immediacy in the rap and poetry-slam era.

    DON BYRON AND EXISTENTIAL DRED
    Don Byron (clarinet)
    Julie Patton (poet).
      
    Byron and his Existential Dred band are playing a three-Monday stint at the Knitting Factory elaborating on last year's album "Nu Blaxpoitation," which featured the poet Sadiq and the rapper Bizmarkie interacting with a jazz quartet. The Sept. 27 show at the Knitting Factory featured the poet Julie Patton, whose addition naturally gave the show a different feeling from the CD's biting, straight-out-of-the-tabloid-headlines commentary on news stories of color. Patton's style is a little more personal, cleverly tying daily-life events in with cosmic questions.

    The show's one flaw was that Patton's mike was often mixed too low to compete with the instruments, so much of what she said could not be heard, but she started with an audibly funny riff combining politics and the hair salon. And she came in clearly on "Dodi," a solemn requiem which on the album featured a poem about that guy who was with a certain famous princess when she died. This time it served as the backing for something entirely different — Patton's languid and playful word game about black history, beginning, "Did you ever see a knee grow?" and ending with a profound observation about what that "knee" symbolizes.

      Don Byron and Existential Dred
    Byron seems to have a gift for mining musical traditions, no matter how long forgotten, as well as borrowing from current culture and then weaving what he's found into something original. Existential Dred is an amazing example of that — full of the energy of both jazz and poetry, heated by the friction of today's racial politics, and leaving the audience with a sense of having experienced something thrilling and new.

    OCTOBER 1, 1999
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK


    Reader comments on Don Byron and Existential Dred:

  • I just thought   from Devauld(Deva), Aug 18, 2002

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