Byron Asher's Skrontch Music

Byron Asher

released October 25, 2019

Skrontch Music is the ambitious debut recording by award-winning New Orleans-based composer and clarinetist/saxophonist Byron Asher. This five-movement, research-based suite for ten-piece ensemble explores the intertwined histories of New Orleans jazz and anti-Jim Crow activism during the early twentieth century. Skrontch Music juxtaposes contemporary composition with collective improvisation, archival recording sound collage, and excerpts from the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson U.S. Supreme Court ruling. A contemporary investigation into the early jazz tradition, Skrontch Music highlights that the development of the music was itself a form of resistance to the racist Jim Crow regime.

The generative seed for this project came in 2014 from Asher’s desire to more deeply understand the socio-political roots of the traditional jazz that he was regularly performing. Research began with frequent trips to the Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University, where Asher combed through the oral history collection. Considering the archival findings in relationship to deep reading into the Reconstruction era, the rise of Jim Crow, and the attendant development of what scholar Clyde Woods terms “the blues epistemology” illuminated the underlying thesis of the project. Through an artist… more

Byron Asher, clarinet and tenor saxophone, compositions
Ricardo Pascal, clarinet and tenor saxophone
Aurora Nealand, clarinet and alto saxophone
Reagan Mitchell, soprano and alto saxophones
Shaye Cohn, cornet
Emily Frederickson, trombone
Oscar Rossignoli, piano
Steve Glenn, sousaphone
James Singleton, upright bass
Paul Thibodeaux, drumset

Skrontch Music was written during a 2016/2017 artist residency at Tulane University’s A Studio In The Woods. The recording was funded by grants from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation and the Puffin Foundation as well as an independent fundraising campaign. Thank you to all who contributed financially to this project. It was premiered at Xavier University in New Orleans in April 2017.

This recording includes excerpts of oral history recordings of Alphonse Picou, Louis Tio, Albert Nicholas and Barney Bigard, courtesy of the Hogan Jazz Archive, Tulane University and Scott Ellsworth, Scott’s Place. It also includes excerpts from public domain recordings by Mamie Smith (Crazy Blues), Bessie Smith (Put It Right Here), King Oliver (High Society), and Jelly Roll Morton (Shreveport Stomp). Text from the U.S. Supreme Court decision of 1896 in the case of Homer Adolphe Plessy v. J.H. Ferguson, Judge of Section “A” Criminal District Court for the Parish of Orleans. Album photograph by Ralston Crawford, courtesy of the Hogan Jazz Archive.

On “Blues Obligato,” duets are performed by Aurora Nealand and Emily Frederickson, and by Reagan Mitchell and Shaye Cohn. On “Comité des Citoyens” solos are by Ricardo Pascal and Oscar Rossignoli. On “After this/that” solos are by Reagan Mitchell, Byron Asher, Aurora Nealand, and James Singleton.

Produced by Byron Asher, Scott Borne and Sinking City Records
Additional sound collage production by Justin Peake
Recorded and mixed by Rick Nelson, Marigny Studios, Winter 2018, New Orleans
Additional mixing by Paul Macdonald
Mastered by Kevin Blackler
Academic advisors Dr. Lydia Pelot-Hobbs and Dr. Sharlene Sinegal-DeCuir

Deep gratitude to Aurora, Emily, James, Oscar, Paul, Reagan, Ricardo, Steve. Scott and Brice at Sinking City Records, A Studio In The Woods, Ama Rogan, Cammie Hill-Prewitt, Grace Rennie, David Baker, Monique Moss, Benjamin Morris and Joe Carmichael, Dr. Tim Turner, Dr. Sharlene Sinegal-DeCuir, and Edward Kidd Jordan. Thank you to Dr. Michael White, Charlie Gabriel and Alonzo Bowens for sharing your stories. Thanks also to all my family, friends and collaborators. Thank you to Lydia Pelot-Hobbs.