Called “one of the most exciting figures in jazz’s new power generation” by Steve Dollar of Time Out Chicago, Taylor Ho Bynum ’98 (MA ’04) is truly an innovator when it comes to jazz. On Saturday, Bynum performed a concert in Crowell Concert Hall as part of his Acoustic Bicycle Tour, designed to show the parallels between alternative jazz music and alternative modes of transportation. The Taylor Ho Bynum Trio and special guest Professor Jay Hoggard played nine of Bynum’s original pieces.
Saturday’s concert focused on two key themes: alternative transportation and honoring your teachers. Bynum’s devotion to the positive effects of alternative transportation was evident throughout his performance.
“I really do think there’s an analogy between the kind of music I make and traveling by bicycle in the sense that it can take longer to get somewhere, it can be harder, but it’s ultimately a much more rewarding journey and you find unexpected pleasures on the way,” Bynum said.
Bynum’s excellent tone and technical skill, as well as his unique creativity with the instrument, blended well with the styles of his trio. His pieces are filled with creativity from start to finish; often they would begin without a clear start, just allowing the members of his group to begin improvisation in the style of the piece. While the pieces Bynum wrote did have melodies, the musicians of the group often took these as starting points from which to expand into full, rich melodic improvisation. The pieces, most of them on the longer side, allowed each of the musicians to create their own interpretations of the rhythm, tone, and feel of each piece.
The defining quality of Bynum’s music, though, is its experimental nature, using both traditional jazz techniques as well as unorthodox ways of playing the cornet and creating music. Bynum was not afraid to experiment with his cornet, often using the instrument to make non-melodic sounds or using a bowler hat as a mute on the trumpet. According to Bynum, this connects with the idea of exploring new ways of transportation. With the earth’s fuel supply getting dangerously low, musicians may soon have difficulty traveling to music gigs.
“I think the environmental reality is, I make 80 percent of my income as a musician touring in Europe right now,” Bynum said. “Flying over to Europe to play two gigs and flying back might not be a reality with the fossil fuel resources 30 years from now.”
The other theme present in Taylor Ho Bynum’s concert was the importance of honoring those who came before us: our history and our teachers. Throughout the concert, Bynum made tributes to his former teachers who influenced his music. He fused one of Professor Anthony Braxton’s pieces with his own. Bynum spoke during the concert about remembering those who helped shape him both as a musician and as a person.
The Acoustic Bicycle Tour is an innovative way to spread both Bynum’s unique and outstanding style of playing the cornet, as well as the messages of alternative transportation. By only traveling by bicycle, Bynum is reducing the amount of fossil fuels he uses during the next few months. Also, as Bynum said, “Part of it’s that I just love to bike.”