Latin Impressions: CHARLIE BYRD
Charlie Byrd unamplified guitar or tiple; with Gene Byrd unamplified guitar or bass; Keter Betts (b) Bill Reichenbach (drs)
# indicates unaccompanied guitar solos by Charlie Byrd
1. The Duck (O Pato) (5:30) (Silva – Teixeira)
2. Amor Flamengo (#) (2:04) (Laurindo Almeida)
3. Azul Tiple (3:32) (Charlie Byrd)
4. Cancion di Argentina (Argentine Folksong) (#) (2:02) (traditional)
5. Carnaval (theme from “Black Orpheus”) (2:34) (Bonfa – Peretti – Creatore – Weiss)
6. Homage a Villa Lobos (3:14) (Charlie Byrd)
1. Bogota (3:48) (Richardo Romero)
2. Mexican Song No. 2 (#) (2:46) (Manuel Ponce)
3. Mexican Song No. 1 (#) (0:56) (Manuel Ponce)
4. Samba de Uma Nota So (2:54) (Jobim – Mendenca)
5. Galopera (Acualero Asuncena) (#) (2:11) (Mauricio Cardozo Ocampo)
6. Vals (Opus 8, No. 4) (#) (5:32) (Agustin Barrios)
This lovely album, featuring the excellent Charlie Byrd, is an outgrowth of a State Department tour through the vast South American continent, and a tribute to its rhythmic yet poignant music. Here you have the mysterious chemistry of many elements – Negroid, Indian, Spanish, Portugese, and now a dash of North American jazz. This sort of Lat’n incongruity was brought home to me one night while I was walking through the dressing rooms at the Blue Angel looking for a friend. Suddenly I heard two guitars playing the most refined and disciplined Bach. Following the sound, I was astonished to see two beautiful, finely chiseled Indian profiles, attired in native Brazilian costumes. They were the players – demonstrating the strangely contrasting ingredients of Brazilian musical culture. This is also seen in the music of Villa Lobos, who, although greatly influenced by European musical culture, still retained an undertone of the native rhythmic impulse.
South America is also a country of participants, or, as they might say, “ritmador”, which translates as “rhythm-makers”. Let anyone in a group start to tap his fingers and immediately you have a huge rhythm section. His companions will join in by scraping two match boxes together, tapping a pencil, clicking coins, or, if nothing else is available, snapping fingers, flamenco style. Out of this will come some of the most complex rhythms imaginable.
Another striking South American feature is the number of peo0le who play the guitar, as much the universal instrument there as in Spain. Walk up to any group of people and it will be most surprising if at least two or three can not play all of the intricate native rhythms. I recall once, when doing a recording with an excellent Venezuelan pianist and composer, puzzling over a native rhythmic part he had written. It would have taken me at least a month to execute it properly, I’m sure, but he whipped the guitar out of my hand and demonstrated just how it should sound. It seems that he, like so many others in South America, just happened to play the guitar when there was nothing else to do!
In this album, Charlie Byrd combines the many diverse elements of South American music – Flamenco, the wistful melodies of Aguirre, Ponce, and Barrios, the sedate yet exciting rhythm of the samba, the dignified Argentine tango, the Venezuelan joropo, and the unique ambiguity of Villa Lobos.
The Duck (O Pato) is characteristic of the popular music of Brazil today. Though it has the form of a samba, the harmonic structure seems to be borrowed from some of our jazz progressions. This is more in evidence when we get to Charlie and Keter Betts’ fine improvisations. Most interesting is the anticipated 3/4 figure played by Bill Reichenback’s drum against the primary 4/4 of the guitars and bass. Amor Flamengo is a fiery composition by the fine guitarist, Laurindo Almeida, utilizing all the elements associated with the Andalusian gypsy. Flamenco music, a product of 800 years of Moorish domination of Andalusia but also bearing the Oriental imprint of the Jews, displays no need for refinement of harmony. For the gypsy finds his expression with simple, direct themes that do not inhibit his emotional rhythmic intensity. Here Charlie brings out the true Flamenco spirit with the simple gypsy melody and fine tremolo.
Azul Tiple, which translates as “Blue Tiple”, is an original by Charlie, featuring the tiple, a ten-string instrument with double and triple strings tuned in octaves. It was played in our country by Teddy Bunn in the 30’s, and later by Jimmie Shirley with the Clarence Profit Trio, who used it on “shout” choruses as if it were a brass section. Its original function was as a chord instrument, but Charlie uses it here as a “cavaquinha”, a small high-pitched tenor guitar played in South American street bands.
Cancion di Argentina is Charlie’s own arrangement of a folk song originally arranged for piano by Julian Aguirre. Although Aguirre (1868-1924) was born in Buenos Aires, this has more of the flavor of a Peruvian folksong. Carnaval is the theme from the award-winning movie “Black Orpheus”, written by the fabulous Brazilian guitarist, Luiz Bonfa. It is in the form of a “choro”, a popular musical form used for many years as a basis for improvisation by Brazilian street bands. Homage a Villa Lobos, another Byrd original, is dedicated to the composer (1887-1959). The opening theme (based on Villa Lobos’ Prelude No. 4, in E minor) dissolves into a tango-like rhythm featuring an unusual tremolo solo by Keter Betts.
Bogota (Pasillo Colombiano) is a rhythmic dance called a joropo, native to Colombia and Venezuela, ina deceptive 6/8 time. The permutations possible here are endless, and it’s delightful to play jazz against such a background, as is evidenced by Charlie’s tiple. It is followed by two songs from Manuel Ponce’s “Tres Canciones Populares Mexicanas”, the first reminiscent of that composer’s Estrellita. Writing of these in another context, composer-guitarist Jack Duaete said: “The composer Manuel Ponce (1855-1948) made, in close collaboration with Andres Segovia, important contributions to the modern literature of the guitar. In these charming songs … the settings are as simple as their idea is direct.”
Samba de Uma Nota So is a Brazilian Samba built around the tone “sol”. Here again is a mixture of Brazilian rhythm and North American jazz harmonic sequence. Galopera (Acualera Asuncena) is a typical Paraguayan melody played in thirds that suggests an ethnic dance in 3/4 Vals, Opus 8, No. 4 is by Agustin Barrios, a Paraguayan and one of South America’s foremost guitarists, who first exposed that continent to the guitar repertoire. Aside from playing and composing, he was also a sensitive poet. One of his poems, in homage to the guitar, tells of the ‘invention’ of the instrument by Tupa, the legendary progenitor of the Brazilian Indians. “’Take this box,’ Tupa said, ‘and unveil its secrets.’ And, confining all the singing birds within it, he left it in my hands. Obeying Tupa’s command, I held it close to my heart and many moons passed as I silently communed with it on the edge of a spring. One night I saw Jacy, the goddess of the moon, portrayed in the crystal liquid. Knowing the sadness of my Indian soul, she gave me six silver moonbeams, that I might unveil the secrets of the magical box. And lo! A miracle took place! From the depths of the box sprang a marvelous symphony of all the virgin voices of our America.”
(Mr. Galbraith, a massively talented studio guitarist who has regularly demonstrated his ability to breathe fire into every sort of jazz framework, is also, in the best sense of the word, a student of the guitar, its players, and ways.)
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS and ED MITCHELL
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER
Recorded and mastered at Plaza Sound Studios, New York City
Album design: KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photo: STEVE SCHAPIRO
This recording is available in both Stereophonic (RLP 9427) and Monaural (RLP 427) form.
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street, New York City 36, New York