When guitarist Charlie Byrd scored big on Stan Getz's Jazz Samba in 1962, he found a niche that served him well for the next 35 years. Byrd, however, no more invented bossa nova than Getz. Instead, both men proved masterful interpreters of a music defined by composers like Antonio Carlos Jobim. Plays Jobim represents a marriage of style and vision, of deep writing and sensitive interpretation. A dozen songs are drawn from five Concord albums, and even casual bossa nova fans will recognize Jobim classics like "Desfinado" and "The Girl From Ipanema." The recordings are performed in multiple settings, ranging from the nonet of "So Danco Samba" to the septet on "Favela" to the quartets of "Corcovado" and "Meditation." The smaller settings work best because Byrd has more room to stretch out and his acoustic guitar is never in danger of being drowned out by the other players. The larger settings, accompanied by clarinet and harmonica, also border closer to contemporary jazz than samba. Upbeat cuts like "Agua de Beber" and slow, romantic pieces like "If You Never Come to Me" are more successful, providing intimate settings for Byrd to work his magic. Chuck Redd's vibraphone also proves complimentary to the spirit and tone of Byrd's acoustic guitar on these cuts. Overall, Plays Jobim is a relaxed set, perfect for the early evening. Fans of Bryd and Jobim will enjoy revisiting these fine compositions.
AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.