Biography All Music GuideWikipedia
All Music Guide:
One of the greatest of all tenor players, Don Byas' decision to move permanently to Europe in 1946 resulted in him being vastly underrated in jazz history books. His knowledge of chords rivalled Coleman Hawkins, and, due to their similarity in tones, Byas can be considered an extension of the elder tenor. He played with many top swing bands, including those of Lionel Hampton (1935), Buck Clayton (1936), Don Redman, Lucky Millinder, Andy Kirk (1939-1940), and most importantly Count Basie (1941-1943). An advanced swing stylist, Byas' playing looked toward bop. He jammed at Minton's Playhouse in the early '40s, appeared on 52nd Street with Dizzy Gillespie, and performed a pair of stunning duets with bassist Slam Stewart at a 1944 Town Hall concert. After recording extensively during 1945-1946 (often as a leader), Byas went to Europe with Don Redman's band, and (with the exception of a 1970 appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival) never came back to the U.S. He lived in France, the Netherlands, and Denmark; often appeared at festivals; and worked steadily. Whenever American players were touring, they would ask for Byas, who had opportunities to perform with Duke Ellington, Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke, Dizzy Gillespie, Jazz at the Philharmonic (including a recorded tenor battle with Hawkins and Stan Getz), Art Blakey, and (on a 1968 recording) Ben Webster. Byas also recorded often in the 1950s, but was largely forgotten in the U.S. by the time of his death.
Carlos Wesley "Don" Byas (October 21, 1912 – August 24, 1972) was an American jazz tenor saxophonist, most associated with Bebop. He played with Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Art Blakey, and Dizzy Gillespie, among others, and also led his own band. He lived in Europe for the last 26 years of his life.
Oklahoma and Los Angeles 
Don Byas was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Both of Byas' parents were musicians. His mother played the piano, and his father, the clarinet. Byas started his training in classical music, learning to play violin, clarinet and alto saxophone, which he played until the end of the 1920s. Benny Carter, who played many instruments, was his idol at this time. He started playing in local orchestras at the age of 17, with Bennie Moten, Terrence Holder and Walter Page. He founded and led his own college band, "Don Carlos and His Collegiate Ramblers", during 1931-32, at Langston College, Oklahoma.
Byas switched to the tenor saxophone after he moved to the West Coast and played with several Los Angeles bands. In 1933, he took part in a West coast tour of Bert Johnson’s Sharps and Flats. He worked in Lionel Hampton’s band at the Paradise Club in 1935 along with the reed player and arranger Eddie Barefield and trombonist Tyree Glenn. He also played with Eddie Barefield, Buck Clayton, Lorenzo Flennoy and Charlie Echols.
New York City 
In 1937, Byas moved to New York to work with the Eddie Mallory band, accompanying Mallory’s wife, the singer Ethel Waters, on tour, and at the Cotton Club. He had a brief stint with arranger Don Redman's band in 1938 and later in 1939-1940. He recorded his first solo record in May 1939: "Is This to Be My Souvenir" with Timme Rosenkrantz and his Barrelhouse Barons for Victor. He played with the bands of such leaders as Lucky Millinder, Andy Kirk, Edgar Hayes and Benny Carter. He spent about a year in Andy Kirk’s band, recording with him between March 1939 and January 1940, including a short solo on "You Set Me on Fire". In September 1940, he had an eight bar solo on "Practice Makes Perfect", recorded by Billie Holiday. He participated in sessions with the pianist Pete Johnson, trumpeter Hot Lips Page, and singer Big Joe Turner. In 1941 at Minton's Playhouse he played with Charlie Christian, Thelonious Monk and Kenny Clarke in after hours sessions.
In early 1941, after a short stay with Paul Bascomb, he had his big break when Count Basie chose him to succeed the post of Lester Young in his big band."Harvard Blues", Jimmy Rushing’s vocal version of George Frazier’s tune, recorded November 17July 24, 1942, small group session with Buck Clayton, Count Basie, and his rhythm section (Freddie Green, Walter Page, Jo Jones) recording "Royal Garden Blues" and "Sugar Blues"August 1942 went to Hollywood with Basie's band to record for the film Reveille with BeverlyJanuary 1943, another film Stage Door CanteenNovember 1943, last recording with BasieStarted to play in small bands in New York clubsHe played with Coleman Hawkins at the Yacht Club (1944)Associated with beboppers such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, George Wallington, Oscar Pettiford and Max Roach at the Onyx Club from early 1944Recorded with the above under Coleman Hawkins six sides, which are said to be the first bebop recordings: "Woody 'n You", February 16 and 22, 1944.May 1944, shared tenor duties with Hawkins in the latter's "Sax Ensemble"May 1944 leader of his own band, performances at the "Three Deuces"Recorded for small labels (Savoy, Jamboree, National, Disc, Arista, Super, American, Hub, Gotham)Had a hit with "Laura" by David Raksin, the title tune of Otto Preminger's movie of the same name (1944)
Despite his bebop associations, Byas always remained deeply rooted in the sounds of swing. He started out by emulating Coleman Hawkins, but Byas always cited Art Tatum as his greater influence: "I haven't got any style, I just blow like Art".January 4, 1945 - Clyde Hart, singer "Rubberlegs" Williams, Gillespie, Parker, Trummy YoungJanuary 9, 1945: Gillespie, Byas and Young record "Be Bop", "Salt Peanuts", and "Good Bait" for ManorTown Hall concert, duet with Slam Stewart in 1945Savoy sessions in 1945-46January 11, 1946, Esquire magazine, 2nd place in tenor saxFebruary 22, recorded with Gillespie, "52nd Street Theme", "Night in Tunisia"
In September 1946 Byas went to Europe to tour with Don Redman's big band in Denmark, Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany. They were the first all-black American orchestra to appear in the French capital since the liberation. Byas remained in Europe. After playing in Belgium and Spain, he finally settled in Paris, and was able to record almost immediately.
While still in Geneva he recorded "Laura" and "How High the Moon". In December 1946 he recorded for the first time in France, with Redman, Tyree Glenn and Peanuts Holland. He recorded for the Swing and Blue Star labels in 1947, working with Eddie Barclay. In 1947 and 1948 Byas lived in Barcelona, where he moved to enjoy the lower cost of living and the thriving atmosphere. The pianist Tete Montoliu sneaked into the Copacabana Club in Barcelona to hear the great saxophone player. Byas was at the top of his form in these years, performing with Bernard Hilda's orchestra (August 1947), Francisco Sanchez Ortega, and Luis Rovira.
He played with Bill Coleman in early 1949; touring that autumn with Buck Clayton. From 1948 onwards, Byas became a familiar figure not only around the Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris, but also on the Riviera, where he could be seen in Saint-Tropez sporting a mask, tuba, flippers and an underwater spear-gun. The tenor found work, could record regularly and had many friends. They adored not only his musical talent but his skills at the pool table, as a sportsman (fishing and diving) and a chef who cooked Cajun and Creole food.
Byas played in the Andy Kirk band in 1939-40 and later in 1944. They recorded together on Vogue in 1953. Byas also recorded with Beryl Booker in the same year.
Byas relocated to the Netherlands and married a Dutch woman. He worked extensively in Europe, often with such touring American musicians as Art Blakey, Kenny Clarke, Duke Ellington, Gillespie, Jazz at the Philharmonic, Bud Powell, and Ben Webster. He also recorded with fado singer Amália Rodrigues during his time in Europe. Byas did not return to the U.S. until 1970, appearing at the Newport Jazz Festival.
Byas died in Amsterdam in 1972 from lung cancer, aged 59.