Lea was two months old the first time we took her to a concert— Jaki Byard's 1989 recital at Weill Hall. He sat at the piano and played a 10-note discord. She whimpered, looked distressed. But he followed instantly with a lambent stride passage. She raised her head and smiled, then fell into an hour's sleep. I knew the feeling. Jaki never put me to sleep, but he always made me smile and frequently knocked me out. Listening to him was like turning on a tap in which all the strains of modern piano, from James P. Johnson to Cecil Taylor, flowed in one luscious rush. Yet having described the most obvious aspect of his playing, I feel obliged to backpedal from the old saw that his music stood for no more than a promethean eclecticism. The result was his own and unmistakable, by turns hard, percussive, witty, sentimental, sardonic, whimsical, subversive, ebullient, anguished. Like Sonny Rollins, he could fake you out— making you think, for example, that those corny arpeggios were a joke, so that you didn't know whether to feel embarrassed or grateful at the emotions he... More >>>