Biography Warren Byrd
Biography Warren Byrd
In 1969 Warren Byrd is four years old when he joins the choir of the Warburton church. He is the youngest of the sixteen children of Mr. and Mrs. Byrd of Hartford, Connecticut. He is also the youngest singer of the choir and is singing perky and diligently in the front line of the lively gospel group. He received that enthusiasm from his parents and numerous brothers and sisters, because there was always music in the Byrd house. At least on the radio and if it was not on, LPs were played, often from big bands. For example, before the age of four, the seeds of what Warren would become were already sown: A great musical talent, a much sought-after pianist and virtuoso improviser and an inventive surprising composer.
From an early age, he listened to Oscar Peterson, Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker recognizing his own African American musical roots and preferences. At that age Warren started already to toy with the the piano and he was eleven years old when he wrote his first compositions on music paper. Until now, Warren was self-taught, but that would soon change when he began studying seriously with Thomassina Neely and later taking lessons with Rachel Richardson, R. Leslie Childs and Julius Williams.
He was an eager student and his talent did not go unnoticed. When Warren graduated from high school in 1983, he received a scholarship for classical singing from the Hartt College of Music. After all, it all started with singing. But the classical vocals did not suit him that much so he did not finish this study, but passionately himself devotedly to jazz music.
As a starting jazz musician, Warren soon discovered that the world is not always at your feet. The period from 1983 to 1989 was a series of trial and error, certainties and uncertainties. It was a time when he read a lot about music, listened and especially looked for his artistic identity.
But Warren is not one to take it easy. During that period he became active with theater and dance in the Performing Ensemble and The Hartford Contemporary Dance Ensemble as an actor and musician. His career as a professional musician had started convincingly. He got a regular job as a choral conductor in a prominent Baptist church in Hartford. But in addition, Warren was often found in venues where jam sessions took place.
From 1990 to 1993, he composed music for Hartford Children's Theater-Productions for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, The Secret Garden and The Arkansas Bear.
The radio station WWUH organized a project called "Jazz in the Wilde" in 1996 and asked Warren to play several solo piano pieces live, which were released on a compilation CD.
Pianist and composer Warren Byrd was able to indulge himself totally when he founded his own band in 1999, the Warren Byrd Trio / Group that made a splash at the Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz and at the famous jazz temple Club 880.
It was an honorable recognition when he was included in the Top 25 of the Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition in 1999. A year later, Warren released his debut CD "Truth Raised Twice" through his own record label Byrdspeak Productions. How productive he was as a composer back then is evident from this CD, which contains a lot of his own work but also well-known jazz standards. This album will experience its worldwide reprise in 2020, twenty years later with a renewed release under license from Laroo Records, the record label of the Dutch trumpet player and jazz diva Saskia Laroo.
In the spring of 2000, Warren showed his admiration for Charlie Parker with his own Warren Byrd Trio with a concert together with The Civic Orchestra of New Haven. That happened under the direction of Gordon Emerson. The concert was announced as 'Bach meets Charlie Parker meets modern classic'.
Warren puts a lot of energy into the composition of a number of own formations, such as the Byrdspeak Ensemble, The Warren Byrd Group, the Warren Byrd Trio (and Duo) and the Warren Byrd Quartet. In addition, he also performs solo.
His fame in the jazz world is now growing rapidly. A selection of his numerous concerts: Since 2006 he has performed annually for the Hartford Farmers Market with his quartet and quintet. In the same year, he and a band climb the stage of the famous Dutch North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague. "Tribute to Bird" was that improvised successful performance called. Also in 2006, Warren performs with trombone players Steve Davis and Frank Lacey during the Monday Night Jazz Series in Black-eyed Sallys.
In the fall of 2007, the Warren Byrd Trio plays with guest soloist Saleem Washington on saxophones and flute. Since 2010, Warren has been a regular feature of the Baby Grand Jazz Series by Pramad Pradhan at Hartford Public Library with several groups. He first does that as a solo pianist, but in 2013 Warren and Saskia Laroo appear on stage together as the Duo Laroo / Byrd. In 1916 both are part of a trio with vibraphonist Jay Hoggard. The list of performances takes on impressive forms.
Together with Saskia Laroo
In the meantime, close cooperation has developed between Warren Byrd and Saskia Laroo, actually since they came into contact in 2001. Saskia leads several of her own bands, in which the pianist / singer Warren Byrd fits perfectly. She invites him to a series of summer concerts in the Netherlands with the Saskia Laroo Band. He also joins other Saskia-led formations, such as Jazzkia, Salsabop and Afrobop, in which Warren feels at home like a fish in the water.
Saskia Laroo releases numerous records, CDs and DVDs on which Warren also stars, including the anniversary CD "Trumpets Around the World". Saskia has excellent contacts worldwide and gathers numerous performances in distant countries. Saskia and Warren perform with different formations during festivals in Curacao, Montreux, Cape Town, Atlanta Festival, Singapore, India etc. They also tour through Chile and play there at the Puerto Montt Free Jazz Festival. In 2013 they are a top act at the Harare International Festival of the Arts in Zimbabwe. They toured China in 2004, 2007 and 2015. They also play concert series in India (2004, 2007, 2015 and 2020). In Thailand they tour with great success in 2009, 2013 and 2019. They also draw full houses in Lithuania and in South Korea. Incidentally, these are just a few of the far-away places that Saskia and Waren have visited.
A separate story is their Duo Laroo / Byrd, which also makes very successful long journeys. They performed together in Indonesia (including Jakarta), Brazil, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Burundi. This collaboration also led to their own CD of the Duo Laroo / Byrd "Two of a kind - Tribute to Miles and Monk".
In fact, it is no wonder that the close musical relationship would lead to a love bond and a marriage between Warren Byrd and Saskia Laroo, who now live alternately in Amsterdam and America.
Nol van Bennekom April 29, 2020