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chitownjazz

Progress in Jaki Byard Murder Investigation

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Does anyone know whether there has been any progress in solving the murder of Jaki Byard?

[Edit] Come to think of it, has his cause of death even been established as murder? I know it was a gunshot wound and there was at least speculation that he was murdered, but I don't know what the police or coroner's determinations were.

Edited by chitownjazz

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http://elvispelvis.com/jakibyard.htm#obit

NY Times, Sunday, Feb. 14, 1999 p. 44

Jazz Artist Jaki Byard Died of Bullet Wound

by Andrew Jacobs

A jazz musician who was found dead in his Queens home on Thursday night was killed by a gunshot wound to the head, police said.

Jaki Byard, 76, a prolific pianist who once toured Europe with Charles Mingus, was killed by a single bullet that entered through his nose, the New York City Medical Examiner said on Friday.

Paramedics, responding to a 911 call, found Mr. Byard dead at 11:45 PM at the home on Hollis Avenue that he shared with two of his daughters, the police said. Investigators said he was last seen by his family at 6 PM on Thursday and that he was killed about four hours later.

Detective Joseph Pentangelo, a Police Department spokesman, said no weapon had been recovered and that investigators had no motive or suspects in the slaying. There were no signs of robbery, forced entry or a struggle, Detective Pentangelo said.

One of the jazz world's most enduring and eclectic musicians, Mr. Byard played as recently as two weeks ago at a club in Boston. He was best known for his unabashed mixing of styles and a witty stage presence that charmed audiences. He recently recorded a compact disc with the musician Michael Marcus, to be released in March.

Writing in The New York Times in 1989, Peter Watrous called Mr. Byard "one of jazz's great surrealists, a comic who hasn't a moment's fear of disturbing the sanity of the performance." Mr. Byard could carelessly switch from bebop to swing to funk.

In the 1960's, he frequently collaborated with Charles Mingus, Charlie Mariano, Booker Ervin and Don Ellis. In the 1970's his big band, the Apollo Stompers, was a regular on the Greenwich Village jazz circuit.

A woman who answered the phone at Mr. Byard's home last night said that the family was too upset to talk. "We're all just in a state of shock right now," she said.

Jaki Byard, a Jazz Musician and Teacher, Is Dead at 76

By PETER WATROUS

NEW YORK -- Jaki Byard, a pianist, saxophonist and teacher who recorded with some of jazz's most important figures, was shot dead Feb. 11 in his house in Queens, said his daughter, Denise Byard-Mitchell. He was 76.

A police investigation is continuing. Ms. Byard-Mitchell said that the family was baffled by the killing, and that she and other family members had been home when Byard died and had heard nothing.

Byard was an extremely important figure in modern jazz for several reasons. In his playing he spanned the history of jazz, and his improvisations, filled with quick stylistic changes, moved from boogie-woogie to free jazz. He was a stylistic virtuoso, his fecund imagination saw comparisons and contrasts everywhere, and his improvisations were encyclopedic and profound. He also had a sense of humor that rippled through everything he played.

"I played Bud Powell solos, and that was a phase," Byard once said in an interview with one of his students, the saxophonist Marty Ehrlich. "Then there was Garner, and that was a phase, and then Tatum, and then finally I decided to put everything together and say the hell with it, this is it."

It made him the perfect accompanist for two of the more well versed musicians of modern jazz, Charles Mingus and Rahsaan Roland Kirk , and Byard was one of the few jazz pianists capable of keeping up not just with their stylistic references, but also with their humor and volcanic intensity.

Byard also taught for several decades and brought his cross-generational sensibility to his students. The re-evaluation of jazz history that began in the late 1970s and early 1980s was partly due to Byard's encouragement and example.

Byard was, early in his career, an integral part of a little-known jazz scene in Boston. During the late 1940s he worked with the tenor saxophonist Sam Rivers in a band, and worked society jobs, sometimes with the violinist and trumpeter Ray Nance.

He then took a job with the alto saxophonist Earl Bostic in 1949, and when he returned to Boston he performed as a solo pianist, and later joined the big band led by Herb Pomeroy, one of Boston's most important bands.

In 1959 he joined Maynard Ferguson's orchestra for two years. Also that year he met the saxophonist Eric Dolphy, and recorded with him on the album "Outward Bound."

In 1961 Dolphy procured Byard's first recording date for Prestige records, producing "Here's Jaki," which featured the Boston-based drummer Roy Haynes.

Byard also worked with the innovative trumpeter Don Ellis. For the rest of the 60s Byard became the pianist of choice for one of jazz's many vanguards.

In the early 1960s he started recording with Mingus, and his playing can be heard on "The Complete Town Hall Concert," from 1962, and the two classic albums Mingus recorded for Impulse, "Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus" and "The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady."

In 1963 he recorded and worked with the tenor saxophonist Booker Irvin, another Mingus associate, and with Charlie Mariano. Two years later he began an association with Kirk, recording and performing with the saxophonist.

During this time Byard began teaching at the New England Conservatory of Music, where he became an important figure in jazz education. He recorded regularly until his death, and when Duke Ellington became ill at the end of his life, filled the piano chair in the Ellington Orchestra.

In the late 1970s Byard led the Apollo Stompers big band in Boston and New York, and he continued teaching at the New England Conservatory and at the Manhattan School of Music, along with stints at Bennington College, the Hartford School of Music, the Brooklyn Conservatory, the University of Massachusetts and others.

In addition to Ms. Byard-Mitchell, he is survived by another daughter, Diane, and a son, Gerald, all of Queens, four grandsons and six great-grandsons.

Pianist Jaki Byard Found Dead From Gunshot

by Drew Wheeler JCS

Jaki Byard, one of the most creative and respected pianists in post-bop and avant-garde jazz, was found dead in his Queens, New York apartment in the evening of Feb. 11. The New York Medical Examiner's Office disclosed the next day that he was killed by a bullet to the head. Byard was 76 and shared the apartment with his two daughters.

A New York Police Department spokesman said that no gun was found in Byard's apartment, and that there were no signs of a struggle, forced entry or robbery. Members of Byard's family had seen him as late as 6:00 PM that evening. His estimated time of death was around 10:00 PM.

Byard became well known in the 1960s as the pianist for bassist/bandleader Charles Mingus, but also became a noted educator and released a series of highly-regarded solo albums for such labels as Prestige, Muse, Soul Note and Concord. He was featured prominently on saxophonist Michael Marcus' 1998 album Involution.

If anyone has information to supply please contact editor ~ed.

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Thanks Chalupa, I saw these online but they are contemporaneous with his death in 1999. I was wondering what if any information about his death has emerged in the ensuing almost 7 years now.

Edited by chitownjazz

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as far as I know, there is nothing new, though there is one person who was and is considered to have been the likely shooter (I will not mention the name because the evidence is anecdotal and because of law suit possibilities) - I talked to Jaki about 2 weeks before the murder, and though some have mentioned that he was quite depressed and that it may have been a suicide, this is not likely. The police have said that the wound could not have been self-inflicted because of the ballistics info; when I talked to Jaki he actually seemd a bit better than he had been, though he was still grieving for his wife, who had died of cancer.

Jaki was a great man and a genius.

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as far as I know, there is nothing new, though there is one person who was and is considered to have been the likely shooter (I will not mention the name because the evidence is anecdotal and because of law suit possibilities)

Allen, can you mention a possible motive without treading on legalistic thin ice?

Edited by chitownjazz

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...though some have mentioned that he was quite depressed and that it may have been a suicide, this is not likely. The police have said that the wound could not have been self-inflicted because of the ballistics info...

Not to mention that they didn't find a gun, at least according to the newspaper accounts. Kind of hard to shoot yourself to death and dispose of the weapon.

Oh well, I'm sure the NYPD is hard on the case <_<

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As someone with first hand experience of a couple of suicides and circumstances leading up to the act, I would say it is very difficult to "guess" the mental state of the person directly involved. As to the gun, it is easy to imagine a family member wanting to "deny" suicide by removing the weapon.

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That is a very good point, Chuck. I guess I'd always heard the information as "Byard's murder" but the way you put it makes one think otherwise...

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as far as I know, there is nothing new, though there is one person who was and is considered to have been the likely shooter (I will not mention the name because the evidence is anecdotal and because of law suit possibilities)

Allen, can you mention a possible motive without treading on legalistic thin ice?

i also remember the "rumors" during that time (which i won't mention) except to say that there might have been drug use involved by the shooter (not jaki). so, so sad. although i didn't know him well at all, i know he was a beautiful person from my experiences.

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1) it was not suicide because of what the police were able to determine was the distance from which the shot was fired

2) there were personal conflicts with someone to whom which Jaki was close - but that's all I'll say - there were tons of rumors - the police also believed it was someone Jaki knew because there were no signs of a struggle or break in -

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That's what I had been hearing. It's hard to know who to give the benefit of the doubt to, other than Jaki...

Sad story, whatever "actually" happened. The man's music is always completely honest and unique; he would've been a great person to meet.

As a sidenote, what's Rudolph up to now? The Blue Humans stuff was something else.

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I just got back from playing in a band with a guy who knew someone close to JB, and this guy believes it was a revenge thing that had nothing to do with JB.

This is probably nothing new to some people here...

i recently read a book called "Jazz And Death" written by an MD in 2002, that clinically describes the probable cause of death of various well-known jazz musicians.

I don't remember if he mentioned JB.

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what's an MD, a doctor of medicine?

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the most credible thing I have heard is that Jaki was shot by someone who was looking for another member of Jaki's family, but got the wrong guy -

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the most credible thing I have heard is that Jaki was shot by someone who was looking for another member of Jaki's family, but got the wrong guy -

That's pretty much what this person said, except rather than being a mistake, it was intended as revenge against the other member of JB's family.

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I remember it, too ... there was even a short article in one of the daily papers I read.

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Just Art Blakey.

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the idea of it being deliberate - and not mistaken identity - makes more sense, as Jaki, I am sure, did not look like this other party - though of course it hurts even more to think of it in this way and to picture this horrible way he died.

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And let's not forget the fact that other family members were in the home when Jaki was shot once in the head, and they deny hearing anything. :blink:

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