Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Editor: Dr. Lewis Porter, Rutgers State University, NJ, (www.jazz.com/encyclopedia )
Morris, Byron (James Byron)
Morris, Byron (James Byron): alto, soprano, and tenor saxophonist, flutist; b. Roanoke, VA, Born: 7 January 1941. His father James William "Jim Billy" Morris, (b.1916 d.1985) was a saxophonist (tenor, alto) arranger, bandleader (The Aristocrats, 1946-1961). His grandmother: Mattie V. Morris, (b.1900 d.1998) was a business owner and cosmetologist, who also played the piano, violin and sang religious and popular songs. His mother is Verna V. Steadman, (b.1919 d. 2007). His sister Deborah Morris Fuller Burnett, (b.1949) sings and plays flute, and writes religious music and poetry.
Morris graduated from Lucy Addison High School in 1959 and attended Tuskegee University, earning his BS Degree in Electrical Construction Engineering in 1964. He's studied music privately with J.W. Morris, Bernie Whitman, Joseph Finley, Dr. Lucius Reynolds Wyatt, John Brown, Frank Foster, Jackie McLean, Jimmy Owens, Ornette Coleman, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, John Malachi, Jimmy Heath, Webster Young, and Thomas "Wit" Williams. He co-founded three musical groups: Unity, with Vincent McEwan and Gerald Wise in 1972; Three Saxes For Lester (Young), founded in 1981 with Ron Holloway and Clyde Dickerson; and Swingin' Saxes, an out-growth of Three Saxes For Lester, with in late 1983 Orrin Hall added on tenor sax, and Charlie Young on baritone & alto saxes, and a broadening of the repertory as well. All three groups have been active in the Washington, D.C. area performing at all the major venues in the Washington, Baltimore, MD metro areas, i.e., Blues Alley, Kennedy Center Cool Jazz Festival, Wolf Trap Performance Arts Center, Carter Barron Amphitheater, Fort DuPont Park Jazz series, Left Bank Jazz Society of Baltimore, at the Famous Ballroom in Baltimore, MD. He also has hosted radio shows in Poughkeepsie/Beacon, NY in 1973 (during this time he worked with Joe McPhee) and from 1977-83 on WPFW-FM, Washington, DC. He received Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1973, 1978 and 1983, the last to conduct educational workshops on jazz history in secondary schools and college for students ages 12 to 22. He produces his own recordings. From: 1980 – 1988 & 2005-09, He presented a music lecture series at the University of Maryland at College Park, MD. This series was initiated by Mr. James Otis Williams, Director of the Nyumburu Cultural Center at the University (NCC U. of MD). Byron was featured yearly in presentations that he developed to demonstrate and discuss the history of, and the lexicon of jazz music through performance, demonstrations, lectures, and through recordings/ videos/DVDs/ films. On April 25, 2005, he once again renewed a lecture series for Dr. Ronald Zeigler (NCC U. of MD), in the Class: “Jazz as a Cultural Art Form.”
He has membership in the following organizations:
BMI - Broadcast Music Incorporated
NMPA/HFA - National Music Publisher's Assoc, Inc. &
Harry Fox Agency, Inc.
CMRRA - Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency, LTD.
NARAS - National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences – (past member)
Universal Jazz Coalition, Inc. – (past member)
AF of M - American Federation of Musicians – (past member)
CAMPHE - Consortium of American Music Performers, Historians and Educators.
IAJE – International Association for Jazz Education (retired member)
MUSICAL EXPERIENCE/Recording List:
Byron Morris plays the alto, soprano, tenor saxophones, and flute.
He has performed on, and, or *produced the following recordings:
1. *+Unity, A Retrospective, USA (By-Mor Music) released January 07, 2011.
2. *UNITY Y2K, CD 2003, USA (By-Mor Music) released July 2003.
3. BLOW THRU YOUR MIND, CD 2001, England (Soul Jazz records), Japan (Celeste Music).
4. VIBRATIONS, THEMES, & SERENADES, CD 2001, Japan (Celeste Music).
5. +JAZZ SPECTRUM 2, CD 2000, England (BBE Records).
6. *BYRON MORRIS and UNITY, Live! At the East Coast Jazz Festival, CD 1998, USA (By-Mor Music).
7. +JAZZIER RHYTHMS 2, CD 1997, England (Hubbub Records).
8. +CREAM OF JAZZY VIBES, CD 1997, England (Hubbub Records).
9. JOE McPHEE & SURVIVAL UNIT II at WBAI’s FREE MUSIC STORE, OCTOBER 30, 1971, CD 1996, 2006 2nd edition. Switzerland (Hat Hut hat ART Records, LTD.).
10. +UNIVERSAL SOUNDS OF AMERICA, CD 1995, England (Soul Jazz Records).
11. *+UNITY, VIBRATIONS IN TIME, CD 1994, USA (By-Mor Music).
12. HONEY, I LOVE, LP 1982 (won award from Parent’s Choice Magazine 1982) USA (Caedmon Records).
13. *BYRON MORRIS and UNITY, VIBRATIONS, THEMES, & SERENADES, LP 1979, USA (EPI Records).
14. *UNITY, BLOW THRU YOUR MIND, LP 1974, USA (EPI Records).
15. *BYRON & GERALD UNITY, LP 1972, USA (EPI Records).
+= Compilation CD
1973 - WSPK-FM, monthly co-host on "Rhythm's In Black", Poughkeepsie/Beacon, NY.
1977 - 1979, WPFW-FM weekly host, engineer and producer of the four-hour show; "Bright Moments", Washington, DC.
1980 - 1983, WPFW-FM monthly host, engineer and producer of the three-hour show; "Serenades".
The Radio Shows that Byron hosted and produced were a forum to present 20th-Century American popular and art music. The programs had a connoisseur's perspective, with the full awareness of the contributions made in American musical history by many, many artist, i.e., Ferdinand L. "Jelly Roll" Morton, Thomas "Fats" Waller, Irvin Berlin, George Gershwin, Edward K. "Duke" Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, Count Basie, Thelonious S. Monk, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane to name a very few.
Byron received Grants from the National Endowment for the Arts in the following years and categories:
1973 - Fellowship-Grant to study music and composition with the internationally known musician Frank Foster.
1978 - Fellowship-Grant to write, compose and arrange various musical works. Several of these compositions and arrangements appeared on the record albums listed on page one of this document.
1983 - Fellowship-Grant for performance. Byron, conducted educational workshops in secondary schools and at the College level for students from ages 12 to 22. Presented a historical overview of American Classical Music, i.e. Jazz, from early1900’s to the present. He presented lectures, film/videos, recordings, live performances and demonstrations.
Byron Morris and Unity