Who's Warren Byrd?
"Warren Byrd, native of Hartford, Ct. is a pianist/vocalist/composer whose music could be called indescribable, except for the fact that, 'He sounds like a lot of jazz pianists we've all dug'...Well, surely some cliches describe him well enough: 'Drawing on his roots to build new sounds', 'Original in ways that relate in ways to how everyone relates', 'Moving "outward" toward the "Core"', Blah, blah, etc. The truth of the matter is in the pudding: As an American with a heritage rooted in the fertile soil of Black creativity, he explores the universal ideals that connect us all seeking unity in music...he just so happens to really dig Jazz as his main musical springboard."--Warren Byrd
The youngest of 16, he was encouraged to sing in the church choir from age 4 and embrace big band jazz as well. This grew into a passion for bebop jazz, especially the music of Charlie Parker, Oscar Peterson. He began noodling on piano at age 9 and composing music at about age 11. Though he studied Piano and Music Theory from that age, most notably with his church music director Thomassina Neely and his South Catholic High School music teacher R. Leslie Childs, he was primarily self-taught. His pursuit of theatre amassed him extensive performing credits throughout his teen years. By high school graduation in 1983, he’d earn a full scholarship for Classical Voice at Hartt College of Music. He would soon abandon this to pursue his first love: jazz.
He considers 1983 to 1989 his trial-and-error period, reading, listening, and searching for his artistic voice; absorbing many ideas in arts and humanities, he’d culled a pantheon of exemplars signifying an eclectic yearning. He remained intermittently active with theatre and dance, namely with the Performing Ensemble and The Hartford Contemporary Dance Ensemble as actor and musician, landed other positions, such as choir director at a prominent Baptist church in Hartford, and began frequenting the jam local sessions and getting to know the scene. Soon he’d become a full-time musician based in Hartford, CT. In fact, in the subsequent 13 years, he became one of the busiest, most versatile musicians in Southern New England. Some highlights would be:
-Associations with groups promoting original works: Nubian Nation(urban/jazz hybrid)1991to 1993; Espada(latin/funk/jazz)1989, 1993-1996; Mike DiRubbo Quartet (straight-ahead jazz); The Explorers Quintet(with Trombonist Steve Davis, straight-ahead jazz); Mixashawn Quartet(with Lee Rozie reeds, etc “Omni-pop”avant-garde jazz) to name a few.
-The huge list of prominent jazz figures with whom he’d earn sideman credits, such as Eddie Henderson, Archie Shepp, Javon Jackson, J.D. Parran, Houston Person, Rosanne Vitro, and of course, Hartford luminaries, such as Paul Brown, trombonist Steve Davis, Nat Reeves, Norman Gage, and Mario Pavone.
-Dance accompaniment would be a for him a consistent source of joy and inspiration. Accompanying classes for the Greater Hartford Academy of the Performing Arts from 1990 September expanded to work at the School of the Hartford Ballet(1995-1999), Hartford Camerata Conservatory(1993-2000), Trinity College(1999-2002), and for many masterclasses. He also performed scores for and composed pieces and extemporaneous soundscapes for Susan Palmer, Justine Fuller, Judy Dworin, Avis Hatcher, David Dorfman, Peggy Lyman, Alvin Ailey Touring Company, and many others.
-Extended his affinity with theatre composing incidental music for Hartford Children’s Theatre productions of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe(1990); The Secret Garden(1992); and the Arkansas Bear(1993)
- In 1996, he began working with David Chevan of Southern Connecticut State University, leading to their founding of the Afro-Semitic Experience in 1998.
- During this period he earned recording credits with some of the aforementioned acts such as The Moon Knows with The Explorers Quintet (Brownstone 1994) also New Terrain(1997); participated in WWUH’s Jazz in the Wilde as a solo pianist(1995); and recorded the first of several albums with David Chevan with AvadimHayinu: Once We Were Slaves (Reckless 1998). He produced his first album in 1999, Truth Raised Twice released in April 2000 on Byrdspeak Productions.
-He placed in the top 25 of the 1999 Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition.
-Nominated for Advocate’s Best of Hartford Keyboardist 8 times between 1994 and 2002.
-Also in 1999, he formed The Warren Byrd Trio/Group. They would appear in venues and festivals as well as accompany visiting jazz artists throughout Southern New England.
-In February 2001, he works as a sideman for Saskia Laroo, jazz trumpet player from the Netherlands. This began their 13-year and current association.
By 2002, he had become a experienced sideman with a long list of credits, a leader of some vision, and a collaborator on interesting projects. 2002 would also mark the intensifying of Laroo and Byrd’s association. As her principal keyboardist, he has accompanied her appearances on over 100 international tours in 13 years including tours as a duo. He appears on three Laroo Records releases: J-5 featuring Funk De Nite(2006), Really Jazzy(2008), and Duo Laroo/Byrd--Two of a Kind: A Tribute to Miles and Monk.
As a result of a long and itinerant association with Saskia Laroo, his partner in love as well as music, he has been a virtual “ambassador artist” in representing the cultural interests of the Netherlands in more than 40 countries and has worked with many Netherlands-based musicians during this time. Notably, he has made impromptu appearances at the North Sea Jazz Festival as a guest jammer(2006-Tribute to “Bird”), numerous TV and Radio spots, and many festival, mostly as Laroo’s sideman but in high fashion with Hans Dulfer, Alexander Beets, Lils Mackintosh, John Engels, Ben Schroeder, Collette Wickingham and many others.
Byrd and Chevan would create six more Afro-Semitic Experience albums together for Reckless Productions: Let Us Break Bread(2001), Days of Awe(2003), Plea for Peace
(2005), Yizkor for Martyrs(2007), The Road That Heals the Splintered Soul(2009), and Further Definitions of Days of Awe(2010). Jazz Souls On Fire, their 9th release is soon to come--http://afrosemiticexperience.net/music
He continues to freelance with many Southern New England jazz and pop music acts as well as other international artists and acts. His deep respect for all arts, his experiences in the theatre as a youth, his work with Dance, his extensive touring schedule, all kinds of gigs and performances of diverse styles, his willingness to absorb old and new, his curiosity of all artifacts of the human spirit may be reflected inversely in his work motto: “...Music speaks free-spirit tongues unleashing grace on souls dancing toward daring peace...”.
Soon to Come: A Nearly Complete And Ridiculously Large List Of [ALMOST] Everybody Warren Byrd Has Ever Played With!
Hear Him; Click "ALTERNATIVES"