Recent listening, current

Thursday, February 28, 2013

46. Donald Byrd / Byrd's Word (1955)

It was announced that Mr. Byrd passed away early this month. Before his role in jazz education and outreach, Byrd was a noted session leader and prolific collaborator. Byrd's Word (not to be confused with Charlie Byrd's Byrd's Word! from 1958) is an early disc of his that was recorded for Savoy in 1955 and shows his original, pre-funk style on the open trumpet. When a guy has a good tone, I love to hear him use it. That's the case here, although his licks are understated compared to his pyrotechnics on other people's dates, like Coltrane's exemplary "Lush Life." Chambers plays bass, Basie alum Frank Foster and the versatile Hank Jones do tenor and piano, with Kenny Clarke on drums. Byrd's "Gotcha Goin' n' Comin'" is a bluesy exercise in mood and rhythm that seems to be as much about Clarke and Chambers, as it is about Byrd. There's a lot of space in the middle and it's heavy on the atmosphere. But once it whispers goodbye, the followup is the jolting "Long Green" that sounds straight off one of the Charlie Parker Savoys. Foster is a versatile player who can play bop as well as he can do hard swing or ballads. There's room for everyone, before the album closes with "Star Eyes" and the beautiful "Someone to Watch Over Me." The latter is my favorite cut on the album, but it works only if I listen to the whole album first. It's a fitting closer to the preceding program, featuring a sentimental intro from Byrd, a moving legato chorus from Foster and one from Chambers, then the go-lightly contributions of Jones and all, who carry it out and are careful not to break the magic. Overall it's a very loose hard bop session that's probably easy to forget and may be similar to other groups, but is superbly rendered.


  1. This is a nice album. Love the cover too. Nice blog you've got here, need to explore it further. Check out my jazz vinyl collecting blog here:

    // Fredrik

    1. Fredrik, thanks for stopping by and saying hello. I really like your blog, especially those photos of covers and center labels -- choice stuff, there. I've added you to my links section and I'll explore your site a little more this weekend. From the looks of your 'Top Cats" section, I think we like many of the same artists.... I love the old stuff from the 50s, hard bop, Prestige/Savoy/Blue Note, etc.

      Best regards,