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Chris Byars, Hearing Music in Himalayan Art

The latest album from the Chris Byars Quartet is titled Jazz Pictures at an Exhibition of Himalayan Art. Written in the wake of three tours in Russia and Turkmenistan, the music on the disc grew out of Byars' interest in fusing his own jazz idiom with Asian sounds and concepts; it was first performed in October 2007 at New York's Rubin Museum of Art as a set of "10 compositions set to a larger-than-life slideshow."

Byars, an alto saxophonist, is a student of overlooked aspects of '50s and '60s jazz, including the music of tenor player Lucky Thompson. And Asian overtones or no, the influence shows on this disc, says Fresh Air's jazz critic: Byars' foursome sounds informed by the pianoless quartets, pastel harmonies and woodwind colors of '50s cool jazz.

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Kevin Whitehead is the jazz critic for NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Currently he reviews for The Audio Beat and Point of Departure.