Jaki Byard Day

June 15, 1922 – February 11, 1999

Jazz Piano Workshop 1965

Pianist, composer, and arranger Arthur “Jaki” Byard was born on June 15, 1922, in Worcester, Massachusetts.

He came from a family of piano players and started taking lessons at the age of 6, becoming a professional at 16.

Byard recorded over 20 albums as a leader and countless albums as a sideman, including several important ones with Charles Mingus.

Additionally, he was a talented composer and a multi-instrumentalist who could proficiently play the trumpet and various saxophones.

Jaki, as he became known, began his jazz career at the age of sixteen, playing in bands led by Freddy Bates and Doc Kentross.

During the early 1940s, his musical understanding and abilities continued to develop, not only in jazz but also through the study of classical compositions by Stravinsky and Chopin.

In the early ’50s, Jaki Byard formed a bebop group with Joe Gordon and Sam Rivers in Boston before moving to New York, where he worked with Maynard Ferguson and, more extensively, with Charles Mingus and Eric Dolphy throughout the 1960s. He also recorded a series of albums as a leader for the Prestige label during this period.

In later years, Jaki held teaching positions at the New England Conservatory, the Hartt School of Music, the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, and the Manhattan School of Music.

Jaki Byard is seen here performing during a 1965 jazz piano workshop in Germany.


Jaki Byard, piano
Reggie Workman, bass
Alan Dawson, drums