Charlie Byrd

Byrd in the Wind

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When Charlie Byrd recorded Byrd in the Wind in 1959, he was still two years away from discovering bossa nova. The guitarist had yet to interact with Astrud and João Gilberto or record anything by Antonio Carlos Jobim, and he had yet to become a major player in the Brazilian jazz field. Nonetheless, Byrd was an impressive jazzman even before he discovered bossa nova. Byrd (who sticks to the acoustic guitar on this album) already had a recognizably melodic sound -- one that underscored his appreciation of Django Reinhardt as well as Andrés Segovia and the Spanish school of classical guitar -- and he would have left behind a worthwhile catalog even if he had retired in 1960. The guitarist's classical leanings are hard to miss on Byrd in the Wind, especially when he employs woodwind players (all of them members of the National Symphony Orchestra) on some of the selections. His love of classical music is evident on "Stars Fell on Alabama" and other standards; it is equally evident on Byrd originals like "Swing 59" and "Showboat Shuffle." Although most of these 1959 recordings are instrumental, singer Ginny Byrd (the guitarist's wife) is featured on four tracks: "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," "You Came a Long Way From St. Louis," "Georgia on My Mind," and "Cross Your Heart." And her cool-toned performances show her to be a pleasant and capable (although not terribly original) vocalist with a strong Chris Connor/June Christy influence. Byrd in the Wind, which Fantasy reissued on CD in 2002 for its Original Jazz Classics (OJC) series, isn't among the guitarist's essential albums, but it's still a decent and pleasing document of his pre-bossa nova, pre-'60s period.

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