By People Staff
March 14, 1983 12:00 PM

Jaki Byard

As a solo pianist, Byard mixes his styles liberally, not only from song to song but often within songs. He doesn’t do it as a curator or carnival showoff, but as one for whom blues, ragtime, bebop, boogie-woogie, and modern and free jazz (not to mention European classicism) are like kittens in a litter—each demanding to be loved and played with at once. Nor does he get sanctimonious about it. When he plays an oom-paahing stride left hand under Bobbie Gentry’s Ode to Billy Joe, or gets a snarled-traffic feel out of Duke Ellington’s Caravan, the irony and humor are as close to the surface as the affection. Byard, 60, is a noted teacher and multi-instrumentalist whose credits include long stints with Charles Mingus, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Eric Dolphy. The selection ranges from the classic Tin Roof Blues to Chuck Mangione’s Land of Make Believe, from Stevie Wonder’s Send One Your Love to surprising and adventurous compositions of Byard’s own. To hear him play is to be convinced that the past, the present and even the future are contemporaneous.