Artist: Greg Byers
From: Minneapolis, MN
Featuring: Arthur “LA” Buckner, Andrew Gillespie, Kenni Holmen, Javier Santiago
Greg was introduced to the music of Zbigniew Seifert through friends that competed in previous iterations of the Seifert International Jazz Violin Competition. Intrigued, Greg applied and was selected as the only cellist to participate in 2018. However, he encountered numerous obstacles, including his flight being delayed for 48 hours and issues with powering his pedalboard. Regardless, Greg made the most of the experience by befriending the other participants and jamming with local musicians.
When Greg returned home to Minneapolis, he was inspired by his recent experience. He went into the studio with bandmates L.A. Buckner and Javier Santiago in order to record the bare bones of an album. The plan was for Greg to overdub vocals, strings and percussion at a later date. However, budget concerns and more pressing projects caused Greg to suspend work on the initiative.
Not long afterwards Coronavirus ruptured our way of life; this resulted in the 2020 edition of the Seifert competition being virtual. Greg felt that he could best utilize his musical strengths through the combination of live performance and pre-recorded work that this version of the contest necessitated. In the end, Greg advanced to the finals and won the International Journalists Award.
Winning helped Greg feel recognized for his skills, but the lack of live performances during the pandemic drastically impacted Greg’s finances so he again put his album on hold. In 2021 he applied for a Creative Support for Individuals grant in order to finish the project and pay musical homage to Seifert. The Minnesota State Arts Board saw the merit in his request and Greg received the grant.
Over the course of 2022 he composed, arranged and invited in a few more friends in order to finish off the work that he started back in 2018. The resulting work, Dear Zbigniew, is a journey through the past half-decade of Greg’s career. Indeed, it has been a full decade since he released his forward-thinking EP Some Dark Beautiful Morning.
The first track, Dear Zbigniew is a musical essay to the late violinist about how the world has changed since his era. Greg embraces Zbigniew’s distinct sound while still updating it for the cello and the new millennia.
Harvest Waltz and CoCalypso were originally written for Acoustic Cuisine, another of Greg’s innovative, grant-funded projects. The event was recorded live but proper versions of the compositions had never been recorded in the studio, so Greg gave them a lavish treatment. Kenni Holmen’s stellar flute and piccolo work are a highlight of both tracks.
Kilimanjaro/Pinocchio is a mashup of two vastly different Seifert compositions; Greg saw a unique chance to pair them together. Since it was recorded in the quarantine of June 2020; Greg was forced to perform every single instrument on the recording. Song for Christopher is the other composition by Seifert on Dear Zbigniew, and it had special meaning to Agnieszka; Seifert’s widow. She told Greg in 2018 that his rendition was one of her favorites of the competition and that the haunting eulogy Zbigniew wrote for a friend’s passing brought her to tears.
Gaia’s Warning represents the halfway point of the album as well as a turning point of the record. This is reflected by the introduction of more electric elements and progressive grooves. Greg always appreciated Javier Santiago’s eccentric piece, so he reformatted it to best fit his vision.
Salsa de Manzana and Diversion are two recent compositions inspired by Greg’s time living in Miami. Many people do not realize that Greg’s father is from southern Florida, so he has familial roots long before his time attending the University of Miami. Salsa de Manzana is a jovial take on “Minnesotan salsa” while Diversion has more subversive undertones.
Springin’ it Back is the final song Greg recorded for the 2020 Seifert competition; similarly he recorded all the instruments with the exception of background Rhodes from Santiago. The song strives to express the future of jazz on bowed strings while still paying tribute to those visionary artists who came before.
Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love is a melancholic ballad by jazz bassist Charles Mingus. It bookends the record because Seifert cherished the challenges of solo performances towards the end of his brief life. The song’s lyrics are about finding solace in the beautiful melodies of a masterful jazz composer and Greg accomplishes just that with his virtuosic treatment of Mingus’ work.
Greg Byers is a fiscal year 2022 recipient of a Creative Support for Individuals grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature; and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Recorded at The Hideaway Studios in Minneapolis, MN
Composed by Greg Byers unless noted | Produced by Greg Byers
Mixing by Jason McGlone | Mastering by Dana Salminen | Artwork by Cameron Burns
Greg Byers - Violin, Viola, Cello, Upright Bass
L.A. Buckner - Drum Set | Greg Byers - Cello & Upright Bass
Andrew Gillespie - Percussion | Kenni Holmen - Flute | Javier Santiago - Rhodes
Kilimanjaro/Pinocchio - by Zbigniew Seifert
Greg Byers - Cello, Acoustic Guitar, Bass, Drum Set, Percussion
L.A. Buckner - Drum Set Greg Byers - Vocals, Violin, Viola, Cello & Upright Bass
Andrew Gillespie - Percussion | Kenni Holmen - Flute & Piccolo | Javier Santiago - Rhodes
Song for Christopher - by Zbigniew Seifert
L. A. Buckner - Drum Set | Greg Byers - Violin, Viola, Cello & Upright Bass | Javier Santiago - Rhodes
Gaia's Warning - by Javier Santiago
L.A. Buckner - Drum Set | Greg Byers - Cello & Synth Bass | Andrew Gillespie - Percussion | Javier Santiago - Rhodes
Salsa De Manzana
Greg Byers - Cello & Upright Bass | Andrew Gillespie - Percussion
L.A. Buckner - Drum Set | Greg Byers - Vocals, Violin, Viola, Cello & Bass Guitar
Andrew Gillespie - Percussion | Javier Santiago - Rhodes
Springin' It Back
Greg Byers - Cello, Acoustic Guitar, Bass Guitar, Drum Set, Percussion | Javier Santiago - Rhodes
Duke Ellington's Sound of Love - by Charles Mingus
Greg Byers - Cello
Thanks to everyone that worked on this record for their incredible talents. Thank you Zbigniew Seifert for your brilliant artistry and for being such a profound inspiration. Thank you Minnesota State Arts Board for believing in this album and being a major factor in its fruition. Thanks to the Seifert Jazz Violin Competition for inviting me to Poland in 2018 and changing my life. Thank you Kathy Kemp, Bob Stata, Ross Harbaugh, Matt Bonelli, Glenn Basham, Charlie Haden, Erika Duke-Kirkpatrick, Tom Rosenberg, Randy Sabien, Christian Howes, Mark Wood, and all my other teachers/mentors for your guidance and knowledge. Thanks to my parents for their constant support throughout the years.
Thank you Anna, Lucifer & Salem; I love my little family!