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Concord has released a couple of "two for one" packages from two of jazz's great instrumentalists and leaders. Charlie Byrd’s pair brings together his live Sugarloaf Suite and studio Brazilville on one combined release entitled Byrd & Brazil. Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers appear on In this Korner and Straight Ahead , together entitled Blakey’s Beat.
Byrd’s collection explores his groundbreaking work synthesizing jazz with the sounds and rhythms of South America. This, along with Gillespie’s efforts, helped spawn the interest in bossa nova, which would evolve into the bachelor pad genre in the 1960’s. Of particular note is Byrd’s work on "Primeira Palavra (The First Word)" and the breezy place-setting composition "Na Praia (At the Seaside)" on the Sugarloaf Suite disc, as well as on the title track to Brazilville. Byrd is a guitarist with a delicate touch and a fine ear for beautiful melodies and this combination will soothe the spirit and refresh the psyche. A wonderful pairing of Byrd’s approachable and creative recordings.
For a different flavor, the Blakey collection offers listeners a more driving, rhythmic and grooving palette of recordings. In This Korner is a live performance from 1978 which features Bobby Watson on tenor sax. Straight Ahead features a younger and looser (to me that is better) Wynton Marsalis along with Bobby Watson. This recording offers such a laid back and groovy feel that it has become a new favorite—it’s live, it’s real and it’s honest, just as Blakey would have it. The solos on "Falling in Love with Love" are so in the moment and infectious that it is so easy to be swept away.
Concord does an excellent job in pairing their releases, adding some insightful and informative essays and detailed liner notes and dropping the retail price. Also, an added touch is that each release has several different writers, so more than one set of opinions and insight is offered. Two thumbs up for these two "two-fers."