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Don Byas

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Biography

Carlos Wesley (Don) Byas (October 21, 1912–August 24, 1972) was a jazz tenor saxophonist born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, in the United States. Although his long residence in Europe kept him out of the public eye in the United States, he is a significant influence on later players of his instrument.

Early life (1912-1932)
Both of Byas’ parents were musical: his mother played the piano and father the clarinet. Byas started his training in classical music, first on the violin, then on the clarinet and finally on the alto saxophone, which he played until the end of the 1920s. Multi-instrumentalist Benny Carter was his idol at this time. He started playing in local orchestras at the age of 17, with the likes of Bennie Moten, Terrence Holder and Walter Page’s Blue Devils. At Langston College, Oklahoma, he founded and led his own college band, “Don Carlos and His Collegiate Ramblers”, during 1931-32.

West Coast (1932-1937)
Byas switched to the tenor saxophone after he moved to West Coast and played with various Los Angeles bands. In 1933, he took part in a West coast tour with Bert Johnson’s Sharps and Flats. He worked in Lionel Hampton’s band at the Paradise Club in 1935 along with the reed player and arranger Eddie Barefield and the trombonist Tyree Glenn. He was a member of various other bands in the area including those of Eddie Barefield, Buck Clayton (1936), Lorenzo Flennoy and Charlie Echols.

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