Taylor Ho Bynum (b.1975) is a musician, teacher, and writer, with a background including work in composition, performance, interdisciplinary collaboration, production, organizing, and advocacy.
His expressionistic playing on cornet and other brass instruments, his expansive vision as composer, and his idiosyncratic improvisational approach have been documented on over twenty recordings as a bandleader and over a hundred as a sideperson. While currently taking a break from leading an active band, Bynum still plays with friends in collective ensembles like his duo with Tomas Fujiwara, Illegal Crowns (with Fujiwara, Benoit Delbecq, and Mary Halvorson), and Geometry (with Kyoko Kitamura, Tomeka Reid, and Joe Morris), and as a sideperson in Tomas Fujiwara’s Triple Double and Shizuko, Jim Hobbs & the Fully Celebrated Orchestra, and Bill Lowe’s Signifyin’ Natives.
From 2004-2019, Bynum maintained an ever-evolving ensemble that morphed between his Sextet, 7-tette, 9-tette, and 15-piece Plustet. Always anchored by a core trio with Mary Halvorson and Tomas Fujiwara, the Sextet’s final version included Bill Lowe, Jim Hobbs, and Ken Filiano, after an earlier iteration with Matt Bauder, Jessica Pavone, and Evan Patrick O’Reilly. The musicians who helped expand the group into larger ensembles include Vincent Chancey, Jay Hoggard, Jason Kao Hwang, Ingrid Laubrock, Tomeka Reid, Stephanie Richards, Steve Swell, Stomu Takeishi, Chad Taylor and Nate Wooley. Most of these recordings are on Firehouse 12 Records, the label he co-founded with Nick Lloyd in 2006, including the “accidental trilogy” that concluded the journey: Navigation (2013), Enter the PlusTet (2016), and The Ambiguity Manifesto (2019).
Bynum is also recognized for his “Acoustic Bicycle Tours” (East Coast 2010, West Coast 2014), where he traveled to concerts solely by bike across thousands of miles. Other long-running projects included Bynum’s SpiderMonkey Strings (an improvising chamber ensemble), Masters of Ceremony (an interdisciplinary dance/music quartet with Rachel Bernsen, Melanie Maar, and Abraham Gomez-Delgado), Positive Catastrophe (a 10-piece Latin free-jazz band co-led with Gomez-Delgado), and the collective ensembles the Thirteenth Assembly (Fujiwara, Halvorson, and Pavone), the Convergence Quartet (Alexander Hawkins, Dominic Lash, and Harris Eisenstadt), and Book of Three (John Hebert and Gerald Cleaver). The Temp, a secular oratorio for orchestra, big band, vocal soloists and choir, with a libretto by Matthea Harvey, premiered in February 2020. Previous works for orchestra have been performed by the Scottish BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Tri-Centric Orchestra.
Bynum’s two decades of work with Anthony Braxton is recognized as one of the most generative partnerships of that legendary composer’s career, with projects ranging from duos to orchestras and everything in between. During Bynum’s stewardship of the Tri-Centric Foundation (which he served as executive director from 2010-2018), he produced many major Braxton projects, including two massive Trillium operas, two immersive Sonic Genome performances, and multiple festivals, box sets and albums. Bynum also worked closely with such departed masters as Bill Dixon and Cecil Taylor, with other collaborative credits including The Aardvark Jazz Orchestra, Nels Cline, Emily Coates, Bill Cole, Kris Davis, Ensemble Musikfabrik, Stephen Haynes, John Hebert, Fred Ho, Jason Kao Hwang, Titus Kaphar, Ingrid Laubrock, Living by Lanterns, Nicole Mitchell, Joe Morris, Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng, Mali Obomsawin, William Parker, Matana Roberts, Eliott Sharp, Wadada Leo Smith, Tyshawn Sorey, Yo La Tengo, and Zemog El Gallo Bueno.
Bynum’s essays, fiction, appreciations and remembrances have been published in The New Yorker, Point of Departure, Sound American, The Baffler, JazzTimes, and in many liner notes. As an educator, he has taught at universities and workshops worldwide, and became the director of the Coast Jazz Orchestra at Dartmouth College in 2017, where he also teaches composition, improvisation, and music history.
To contact Taylor, email thobynum [at] gmail [dot] com. To subscribe to Taylor’s occasional newsletter, click here. Most of his albums are available on bandcamp.com, and his complete discography is available on discogs.com.