Sunday, March 4, 2012

Charlie Byrd - At the Village Vanguard

One of my favorite Charlie Byrd albums. The setting is intimate, the playing is very good, the guitar is umamplified--or nearly so. These two sets reveal that Charlie Byrd was a skillful and mature guitarist two years before his association with Stan Getz. The arrangement of "Why Was I Born," is a very nice guitar arrangement (key of A) and shows that Charlie knew how slowly a ballad can be played--many musicians would have been unable to keep the tempo down and still be creative. Some nice improvising and Charlie's trademark crazy classical tricks on Ellington's Just Squeeze Me. A pleasantly warm trio in a real setting. Buy it and transport yourself to a small club in the Village in the early, early sixties, before life was complex! - by Douglas A. Nickerson, Amazon.com

Shortly before departing on his epochal 1961 State Department tour of South America, the one that ignited his love affair with bossa nova -- and subsequently, ours -- Charlie Byrd played this trio gig at New York City's Village Vanguard. At first, "Just Squeeze Me" goes at an easygoing stroll as Byrd adheres swingingly to the beat, and "Why Was I Born" isn't terribly eventful. But then, there are definitely hints of things to come in the fluid samba-like rhythm that the trio kicks up on "You Stepped Out of a Dream." The 20-minute fantasia on the old union rouser "Which Side Are You On?" also has a Brazilian-tinged groove, and the combination of that and Byrd's low-key classical savvy keeps you as mesmerized as the quiet audience must have been. It is also significant that both of Byrd's cohorts on the date, bassist Keter Betts and drummer Buddy Deppenschmidt, would play on Byrd's historic Jazz Samba album with Stan Getz a year later. The direction is clear; Byrd was about to open the door to bossa nova, and you can hear him inching up to the starting gate here. - by Richard S. Ginell, AMG

Artist: Charlie Byrd
Album: At the Village Vanguard
Year: 1960 (Riverside)
Label: OJC (Digital remastered, 1991)
Runtime: 46:19

Tracks:
1.  Just Squeeze Me (Duke Ellington/Lee Gaines) 13:00
2.  Why Was I Born? (Oscar Hammerstein II/Jerome Kern) 5:57
3.  You Stepped Out of A Dream (Nacio Herb Brown/Gus Kahn) 6:48
4.  Fantasia on Which Side Are You On? (Charlie Byrd) 20:32

Personnel:

Charlie Byrd (Guitar)
Keter Betts (Double Bass)
Buddy Deppenschmidt (Drums)

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