saxophonist / composer / arranger
Chris Byars enjoyed a pre-teen career as a singer with both New York City’s major opera companies. At age 13, he began to study the saxophone and developed an apprenticeship with the older musicians of the NYC jazz scene, transforming from a novice into a composer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist. In 1994 Byars began a decade of gigs at Smalls in Greenwich Village, appearing with jazz legends Frank Hewitt and Jimmy Lovelace. Two bands were formed during this period: Across 7 Street and The Chris Byars Octet which recorded with the Smalls Records label to critical acclaim Byars now performs exclusively his original material on the 2007 CD Photos in Black, White and Gray (Smalls Records). Byars carries forward the legacy of jazz saxophonist/composers such as Gigi Gryce and Lucky Thompson by creating his own original repertoire and saxophone style. Byars believes it is a critical time to capture the interest of 21st century audiences by creating and performing new music which brings an understanding of the past that will enable current musical activity to build a foundation for a shared musical future. In April 2007, Byars represented the U.S. State Department as an ambassador of culture, performing jazz in Central Asia.
This bio/description was originally published in 2007 and updated in 2013. For more current information, please refer to the award recipient's website (if provided).