The Jaki Byard Project, Inch By Inch, Yard Byard (GM Recordings)
An album in tribute to a prodigious pianist—without a pianist; it must have seemed a good idea when flutist Jamie Baum conceived it. And it was. Ms. Baum, drummer George Schuller and guitarist Jerome Harris studied with Byard at the New England Conservatory. He died in 1999. Byard’s compositions and the inspiration of his genius as an arranger influenced their musical development. They recruited bassist Ugonna Okegwo and multiple reed artist Adam Kolker and founded The Jaki Byard Project. The group’s translation of a dozen Byard compositions into hip chamber pieces refracts facets of their mentor’s kaleidoscopic oeuvre, from the wryness of “Aluminum Baby” to the ruminations of “Ode to Charlie Parker.” All members play beautifully. Ms. Baum’s flute work and Kolker’s tenor saxophone, particularly on the Parker memorium, deserve special mention.