Artist Spotlight: Warren Byrd

Hartford native Warren Byrd is the product of a childhood rich in musical influence.  The youngest in a family of 16, Warren began performing as a child.  He was awarded a full scholarship to Hartt College of Music and decided to focus on jazz.  His eclectic musical background gives him a wealth of inspiration to draw on.  He regularly performs with other musicians and groups across many musical genres, including theater and dance.

When did you start performing?

I began performing like many, at a young age, singing in the choir of my church at age four. Subsequently, I’d had myriad performing experiences by the time I graduated from high school, from acting in over twenty plays and musicals of many grades, accompanying singers and dancers, singing in choruses, glee clubs, etc. My first love being jazz music, I chose this, and several years later was a full-time professional musician.

What about playing music makes you happy?

Catharsis; the pivotal power of music is how it refreshes my spirit and allows my real self to speak. I also enjoy the visceral effect it has on the lives of listeners. I feel it is undervalued.

 What are your hopes for your future in live music?

I hope to create some large scale projects involving all the arts. I hope to reach a wide audience and share with them my experiences, dreams, and vision. I hope to touch people in a life-changing way for the better and give them some fresh perspectives on the things of our lives.

What other acts/musicians do you regularly play with?

I’m co-founder of the Afro-Semitic Experience with whom I often tour and have made several CDs. I’ve been touring extensively with Saskia Laroo in her various formations for the past 10 years and co-lead with her Duo Laroo/Byrd and Laroo Funky 4. Our Duo’s first CD, Two of a Kind  was released on July 2011. Recently I toured with the Saskia Laroo Band featuring Ark Ovstruski. I’ve been appearing often in the Hartford area lately with Steve Davis, Sinan Bakir, Stephen Porter, Alvin Carter, Jr., Kitty Katherine, Emile DeLeon, Norman Gage, Paul Brown, Jonathan Barber, Matt Dwonsyk, Mike Renfro, Henry Reed, Jason Tremblay, Mike Palin and the Other Orchestra…the list is very long.

What has been your favorite performance so far?

I have not just one, but many favorites. One I’ll never forget was with The Saskia Laroo Band in Panjim, Goa, India,  Concert for Peace, 2008. It was just after the terrorist attack in Mumbai–where I had to embark while it was in progress–and the organizer decided to belie the catastrophe by naming the event one for Peace in honor of those who suffered in the siege. The music was great, the people were greater, and the night became very special.

Who are some of your favorite musicians?

Once again, I’d feel remiss to leave anyone out. I love to listen to and see so many great musicians and I’ve been influenced by just about everyone I’ve ever played with (which is an important aspect of music life for me), but Chick Corea and Duke Ellington epitomize to me the glorious potential of Creative American music. Stevie Wonder, Prince, and Miles Davis are a big deal to me too. Yet still, there are others I must mention: Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Mixashawn, Max Roach, Billy Strayhorn, Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky, etc. Then there’s cats I love to play with who are music friends–too many.

What is your favorite instrument to play? Why?

My favorite instrument is the imagination. The imagination is where the heart plays. The imagination can create worlds we can all experience away from what we know and this can be (and has been) express in music. My second favorite instrument is the piano–it’s a fine medium for imagination.

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