Charlie Byrd Plays Jobim

COMPOSERS: Jobim
LABELS: Concord
PERFORMER: Charlie Byrd (g), Ken Peplowski (cl, ts), Scott Hamilton (ts), Bud Shank (as), Hendrick Meurkens (hca), Allen Farnham (p), Romero Lubambo (g), Nilson Matta, Joe Byrd, Dennis Irwin, Bill Douglass (b), Chuck Redd, Duduka Da Fonseca (d, vib), Michael Spiro (
CATALOGUE NO: CCD-2135-2

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Byrd was a taken-for-granted musician who, without undue fuss and with scant media attention, spent his career quietly making effective fusions of jazz with both classical and South American strains. Since he saw himself as a concert-repertoire player rather than any kind of bop-grounded journeyman, he sounded far less self-conscious than jazz players usually do when tackling Jobim and his ilk.

The early albums for Riverside are the freshest, and could do with a revival of interest; but in his later years the guitarist was extensively recorded by Concord, and this compilation sews together what is effectively a generic ‘greatest hits’. Jobim tunes often send jazz musicians (and their audiences) to sleep, since their melodic sweetness tends to mask the occasional harmonic ingenuity.

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There’s a sufficient variety of settings here to keep the ears perked up – quartet with Ken Peplowski, Japanese concert tracks, a lovely ‘How Insensitive’ with Bud Shank – and always Byrd’s guitar finds the most apposite moves, improvisations touched with grace and equally firm about avoiding obvious clichés. Richard Cook