Magazine article International Musician

Global Trips and Mental Journeys

Magazine article International Musician

Global Trips and Mental Journeys

Article excerpt

Though he certainly knows his way around a standard 4/4 groove, saxophonist and bandleader Chris Byars of Local 802 (New York City) has found that a lot of world music is much more complex. Byars recently traveled to the Central Asian countries of Tajikistan and Turkmenistan on a musical goodwill mission through the US State Department, and he played folk tunes with native musicians in meters like 11/8 and 37/16, and a few tunes that didn't fit any meter at all.

"It's tough for me, but to them, it's second nature," Byars says.

In addition to stretching Byars musically, his travels with the Rhythm Road American Music Abroad program allowed him to share traditional American music with listeners who had never heard it before and didn't know about the country it comes from.

"We try to increase appreciation for the US via cultural exchange," he says. "We present what we do, and people tend to look favorably on trying to give a musical message."

During his tour of Central Asia in 2007, Byars engaged in collaboration and improvisation with native musicians, including Tajikistani composer Tolib Shahidi, who worked with cellist Yo-Yo Ma of Local 802 on his Silk Road project. His 2008 tour was originally scheduled for the Balkan countries of Eastern Europe, but will be rerouted due to political turmoil in the region. Wherever he heads this year, he looks forward to the opportunity to grow in his musical knowledge.

"In my career, the more I learn, the more I find out that I don't know," he says.

While in the US, Byars leads his own quartet of saxophone, trombone, bass, and drums, and also works as a music copyist for Don Sebesky of Local 802. Regarding his AFM membership, Byars explains that one of his musical role models, the late Charlie Harmon, impressed upon him the importance of the AFM when they played tenor sax side-by-side in the Stan Rubin Big Band "He'd tell me how important it is to our survival and our profession," he explains. …

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