RLP12-448
CHARLIE BYRD: BYRD’S WORD

Charlie Byrd (g) with Bobby Felder (valve tb) Buck Hill (ts) T. Carson or Charlie Schneer (p) Keter Betts (b) Bertell Knox or Eddie Phyfe (drs) Kenneth Pasmanick (bassoon) Ginny Byrd (vcl)

On Byrd’s Word, Tri-X, What’s New and Buck’s Hill personnel is: Charlie Byrd (g) Felder (valve tb) Hill (ts) Carson (p) Betts (b) Knox (drs) On Bobby in Bassoonville, Pasmanick replaces Hill.

Blue Turning Grey Over You and Don’t Explain; Ginny Byrd (vcl) Charlie Byrd (g)

Satin Doll: Byrd, Betts (b) Phyfe (drs) On Stompin’ at the Savoy, add Schneer (p)

Conversation Piece: Byrd (g) Betts (cello)

Recorded Washington D.C.; September 1958


SIDE 1

  1. Byrd’s Word (5:32) (Bobby Felder)

  2. Blue Turning Grey Over You (2:55) (Waller – Razaf)

  3. Bobby in Bassoonville (4:26) (Bobby Felder)

  4. Satin Doll (4:20) (Duke Ellington)

  5. Tri-X (4:29) (Bobby Felder)

SIDE 2

  1. Conversation Piece (3:36) (Byrd – Betts)

  2. What’s New (4:14) (Haggart – Burke)

  3. Stompin’ at the Savoy (3:21) (Sampson – Goodman – Webb)

  4. Don’t Explain (3:27) (Holiday – Herzog)

  5. Buck’s Hill (4:37) (Bobby Felder)


   In September, 1957, Charlie Byrd, a guitarist who was nourished on the blues as a boy in Suffolk, Va,. and who studied with Segovia as a man in Siena, Italy, opened with a trio at the Showboat nigh club in Washington, D.C. The Showboat is in the basement of a neighborhood bar and restaurant in a shopping-amusement-apartment district about 10 minutes from downtown Washington. Byrd welcomed the chance to work out some ideas he had for the trio away from the pressures of a large club and out of the spotlight. There were and are no pressures, but the spotlight has brightened considerably in the years since he opened. Today, Byrd still does most of his playing at the Showboat, is the most popular jazz musician in Washington – and of late one of the most popular in the country.

   Byrd, who speaks with a mellow Virginia accent and has a dry sense of humor, summed up his feelings about the Showboat by saying, “I like the free people for coming in droves to hear what we’re doing with the free hand.”

   While this record is not an attempt to recreate the flavor of an evening at the Showboat, it does present some of the musicians who have worked at the club over the years and gives an idea of the high quality of the jazz played at the club, and in Washington, D.C. in general.

   First among these musicians is Byrd himself, who was born in Suffolk, a small town in the southeastern corner of Virginia on September 16, 1925. The county where Byrd grew up was two-thirds Negro, and the community where Byrd’s father ran a small country store had an even greater Negro population. It was natural that the first guitar young Byrd heard was the blues picking of customers and idlers who congregated around the store on Saturday nights. Charlie retains a strong feeling for the blues, which can be best heard in this record in his duet with Keter Betts, Conversation Piece, freely improvised and recorded in one take by the pair.

   Byrd took up the guitar and mandolin at the age of 10 and took up trumpet while in high school “so’s I could get into the football games free.” After two years at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, where he studied business administration (it didn’t take) and played in a dance band (this did), Byrd entered the Army. Charlie describes his Army service as his “formative years in jazz.” He met a Pittsburgh guitarist, Marty Faloon, who played Charlie Christian style, played with Django Reinhardt during a European tour with the band and heard bop for the first time. After he was discharged, Byrd went to New York (in 1946), where he worked with Barbara Carroll, Joe Marsala, Freddie Slack and others.

   He became seriously interested in classical guitar in 1947, and came to Washington to study in 1950 after his marriage. IN Washington he studied with Sophocles Papas, dean of Washington guitar teachers. After an audition with Andres Segovia, Byrd was invited by that master to study with him in the summer of 1954 in Italy.

   Around 1856 Byrd became interested in adapting the classical finger style to playing jazz on unamplified guitar, and now he divides his playing about equally between unamplified and electric guitar. Byrd finds bass and drums the best accompaniment for unamplified guitar because in that context “it doesn’t get swallowed by piano and saxes and you get a chance to show off the contrast within the guitar itself, which is one of its main advantages.” Byrd also has some thoughts about jazz in general:

   “I like to leave a lot of room for improvisation – that’s one of the most interesting things about jazz – and I’m very much opposed to trying to push jazz into little categories. I don’t see why a jazz player has to limit himself to one style and to refuse to hear and play anything else. A band’s repertoire should cover the whole field. I don’t feel that some kinds of jazz are corny.”

   Of Buck Hill, Byrd said, “I can think of a musician I like better. He’s a real jazzman.” Hill, a native of Washington, started on soprano sax at 13, progressed through alto to tenor, and from influences from Benny Carter through Lester Young to Charlie Parker. He likes most of the current tenor men, especially John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, while retaining admiration for men like Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins and Young.

   Felder is a native of Tampa, Fla. He majored in music at Fisk University, Nashville, Tenn., got his master’s degree in music at Catholic University in June, 1958, and teaches music at a Washington junior high school. Felder is interested primarily in composing and arranging, but most of his work had been for rock and roll quartets. Consequently, he was happy to write the more challenging material for this LP. Felder’s idol is Ellington.

   Betts was born William Thomas Betts in Port Chester, N.Y. He started playing bass in 146, turned professional in 1949 with Earl Bostic, and then was an accompanist for Dinah Washington for five years before coming to Washington. Bertell Knox is a native of New York City, but grew up in Alexandria, Va., across the Potomac River from Washington. He has accompanied Ella Fitzgerald and Pearl Bailey and worked with Bill Davis, Jackie Davis and Arnett Cobb.

   Ginny Byrd is Charlie’s wife, and her two vocals are samples of sort of thing she does occasionally at the Showboat and more often for her pleasure at home. Kenneth Pasmanick is solo bassoonist with the National Symphony.

   This LP was recorded in, of all places, the Washington YWCA, which has a hall with acoustics that are excellent for small groups. Byrd supervised the sessions and the tape editing.

   As for the music, it’s all good, but listen especially to the vibrant tenor of Hill, the earthy duet of Byrd and Betts and the trio’s Satin Doll.

PAUL SAMPSON


   Byrd’s other Riverside albums include –

Once More!: Charlie Byrd’s Bossa Nova (454; Stereo 9454)

Bossa Nova Pelos Passaros (436; Stereo 9436)

Latin Impressions (427; Stereo 9427)

Byrd in the Wind (449; Stereo 9449)

Mr. Guitar (450; Stereo 9450)

The Guitar Artistry of Charlie Byrd (451; Stereo 9451)

Charlie Byrd at the Village Vanguard (452; Stereo 9452)

Blues Sonata (453; Stereo 9453)

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Recorded by Edgewood Recording Studio; Washington D.C.

Album design: KEN DEARDOFF


This recording is available in both Stereophonic (RS 9448) and Monaural (RM 448) form.


RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produce by BILL GRAUERP PRODUCTIONS, Inc.

235 West 46th Street, New York City 36, New York