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Charlie Byrd: Byrd Song

David Rickert By

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Byrd Song is a peculiar album, even from a man whose career was always hard to pigeonhole. Although not as well-known or perhaps as highly regarded as Wes Mongomery or Kenny Burrell, Byrd was an accomplished guitarist who fused classical technique and jazz licks on everything from standards to Brazilian folk music. On Byrd Song (recorded in 1965) he embellishes his guitar- bass-drums format with a choir that sings vocalese licks (a la Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross) in response to the melodies of the trio. It’s a compelling experiment that unfortunately wears thin after a few numbers. By the third time around, the vocalists feels like guests who showed up uninvited to a nice shindig and one longs for the unadorned charm of Byrd’s guitar without the distraction.

Charilie Byrd always had a tendency to tinker with his presentation more than he should-an affectation which makes each of his albums distinctive, but often detracts from the folksy charm of Byrd’s baroque jazz. Fortunately, about half of the album features Byrd backed by his rhythm section, or unaccompanied, and these are the real treasure. People who are unfamiliar with Byrd would do well to pick up another of his albums first. For Charlie Byrd fans this album, long out of print, will not become a favorite, but will prove to be an intriguing listen and a good purchase.


Track Listing: I Left My Heart in San Francisco/ Who Will Buy?/ The Night We Called it a Day/ Wild Cat/ Felicidade/ Action Painting/ This Can

Personnel: Charlie Byrd- guitar; Keter Betts- bass; Bill Reichenbach- drums; anonymous voices. Recorded 1965.

Title: Byrd Song | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Fantasy Jazz

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