One of the greatest of all tenor players, Don Byas' decision to move permanently to Europe in 1946 resulted in him being vastly underrated in jazz history books. His knowledge of chords rivalled Coleman Hawkins, and, due to their similarity in tones, Byas can be considered an extension of the elder tenor.
Born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, on October 21, 1912, he played with many top swing bands, including those of Lionel Hampton (1935), Buck Clayton (1936), Don Redman, Lucky Millinder, Andy Kirk (1939-1940), and most importantly Count Basie (1941-1943).
An advanced swing stylist, Byas' playing looked toward bop. He jammed at Minton's Playhouse in the early '40s, appeared on 52nd Street with Dizzy Gillespie, and performed a pair of stunning duets with bassist Slam Stewart at a 1944 Town Hall concert. After recording extensively during 1945-1946 (often as a leader), Byas went to Europe with...