[JPL] Joe Byrd, 78, jazz bassist performed with his famous guitarist brother Charlie Byrd

Dr. Jazz drjazz at drjazz.com
Wed Mar 7 21:47:37 EST 2012


Joe Byrd, 78, jazz bassist performed with his famous guitarist brother 
Charlie Byrd
By Adam Bernstein, Wednesday, March 7, 5:57 PM

Joe Byrd, a bassist best known for collaborations with his guitarist 
brother Charlie and who helped introduce bossa nova-inflected jazz to 
the United States, died March 6 at Anne Arundel Medical Center from 
injuries in a car accident that day. He was 78.

Mr. Byrd, who also played guitar and was billed early in his career 
under his given name, Gene, was the youngest of four musical brothers 
who grew up in Virginia's Tidewater region. They drew national attention 
and acclaim for "Jazz Samba," which showcased the jazz saxophonist Stan 
Getz and was recorded in 1962 at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church 
in Washington.

Charlie Byrd received top billing with Getz on "Jazz Samba." But the 
handful of supporting players --- including Joe Byrd on rhythm guitar 
--- were crucial to the understated melodic expressiveness of the 
recording and to capturing the delicate but rhythmically thrilling 
soulfulness of Antonio Carlos Jobim's"Desafinado" and "One Note Samba," 
among other songs.

Latin-tinged accents in American jazz and pop were hardly novel at the 
time. Guitarist Laurindo Almeida and saxophonist Bud Shank had partnered 
in the early 1950s on recordings featuring glimmers of bossa nova jazz.

But "Jazz Samba" was a far greater and enduring commercial success, 
appearing at the moment when "bossa nova was starting to percolate," 
said author James Gavin, who had written extensively on jazz.

The 1959 film "Black Orpheus," a drama set amid Brazil's Carnival and 
with music by Jobim and Luiz Bonfa, won the Oscar for best foreign 
language movie. Charlie Byrd first was exposed to the burgeoning bossa 
nova style of jazz on a musical tour of Latin America in 1961.

"Jazz Samba" remains the only jazz album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard 
pop chart, according to JazzTimes magazine. It helped spur an entire 
subgenre of jazz featuring some of the leading entertainers of the era, 
including Peggy Lee, George Shearing and Sonny Rollins. And Getz went on 
to make recordings, such as "The Girl From Ipanema," that further 
popularized the style.

Joe Byrd worked steadily with his brother for the next four decades, 
seldom in the foreground. They made international trips as goodwill 
ambassadors for the State Department. They performed for presidents at 
the White House and at local clubs, such as the old Showboat Lounge in 
Washington and the King of France Tavern in Annapolis.

Mr. Byrd was a staple of the Charlie Byrd Trio, along with Chuck Redd on 
drums and vibraphone. Mr. Byrd and Redd also played in the touring group 
Great Guitars with his brother and jazz guitar virtuosos Barney Kessel, 
Herb Ellis and Tal Farlow.

Besides his work for his brother, Mr. Byrd also backed visiting 
musicians on Washington-area club dates, including saxophonist Coleman 
Hawkins, pianist Mose Allison and singer Jimmy Witherspoon. After his 
brother's death in 1999, at 74, Joe Byrd had led his own trio and 
recorded several albums, including "Basically Blues" and "Brazilian Nights."

Gene Herbert Byrd was born May 21, 1933, in Chuckatuck, Va. His father, 
Newman, was a tenant farmer who also owned a general store where 
musicians gathered. Newman Byrd played guitar and mandolin and 
introduced his four children to music. They played as a family band on a 
Tidewater radio station.

After Army service, Mr. Byrd enrolled at the Peabody conservatory in 
Baltimore on the G.I. Bill. In 1962, he graduated with a degree in 
double bass and a teaching certificate. He soon joined his brother's 
small group, replacing bassist Keter Betts.

Mr. Byrd, an Edgewater resident who had retired from performing a few 
years ago, was running an errand when he died. According to Anne Arundel 
County police, he had a green light to turn left on Solomons Island Road 
from Lee Airpark Drive in Edgewater when another vehicle ran through a 
red traffic signal and struck Mr. Byrd's car. The other driver was 
uninjured. The crash is under investigation.

In 1977, he married Elana Rhodes, a lawyer. Besides his wife, of 
Edgewater, survivors include a stepson, Jeffrey House of Washington; and 
a brother, Jack Byrd of Suffolk, Va.

Joe Byrd was, like Charlie, a musician whose Southern drawl and 
unobtrusive style masked a refined talent. If Mr. Byrd ever felt 
overshadowed by his brother's marquee status, he rarely if ever let on.

"He adored Charlie and they got along so well," Elana Byrd said. "They 
were kind of quiet guys who understood each other. There was no rivalry 
whatsoever. Joe used to say he was an ensemble player. In jazz, you have 
to be. You can't have a bunch of egotists."

© The Washington Post Company

Dr. Jazz
Dr. Jazz Operations
24270 Eastwood
Oak Park, MI  48237
(248) 542-7888
SKYPE:  drjazz99

More information about the jazzproglist mailing list