Don Byron at The Falcon

Went to The Falcon in Marlboro last night to see the great jazz composer and reed player Don Byron perform outside with a quartet of known cats. A serial monogamist of styles, Byron made his name in the Nineties and early Aughts with a run of closely spaced records, each of which explored a different genre or tradition through a jazz lens. There was a klezmer record, an exceptional swing record, a lean funk record, an incendiary gospel band that hit the Falcon almost as hard as Hurricane Irene, a couple of Latin outings, some free jazz, two luminous chamber-music collections hinting at modern classical, and “much more.”

Actually much more. I’m not just saying that. Not many people have done a better job dancing the line between stylistic discipline and modern jazz freedom. Byron is a pretty high-concept guy, but these are universally reduced times. Individuality is a kind of obsolete luxury. People fall back on the base-line settings, conventions, foundations.

Before it was cut short by a massive, darkly luminous thunderhead that parked over the Falcon as if it were Tony’s personal storm cloud and shot fingers of lightning, Byron’s show was a pretty straightforward jazz pickup gig. Of course, when it is a player of his caliber, any moment is likely to be revelatory anyway. He just seemed genuinely happy and relieved to be playing at all.


The Falcon’s tiered bulwarks of decks, patios, and box seats serve it exceptionally well in this period of tentative rapprochement. It was, by any standard, a good turnout for a Sunday-night jazz show, but the table spacing made it feel thin. Here at the Falcon, as throughout the civic space, there is a lot of text and postings. Workflow and all the habits of interface have to be reconditioned, so suddenly displays of explanatory text guide us through a new reality.

It was news to me, for example, that you can’t order a drink without food. My companion offered that this edict may have come directly from the health department in response to a steep rise in day drinking.

The Falcon is doing it right. Tony is, as ever, hands-on and on the scene. The staff is crisp and prepared for all the new modes of service, bothering to explain that they are not bussing tables in the usual rhythm in an effort to minimize contact. The evening was good, compliant fun in an exquisite setting.

But everything is so weird right now.

Read more installments of Village Voices by John Burdick.