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Charles L. Byrd
Charlie Byrd 
November 30, 1999
Age 74
 
Cancer 
 
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OBITUARY 
        
 
 
 Jazz Guitarist Charlie Byrd Dies

 By TOM STUCKEY Associated Press Writer  

 ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Charlie Byrd, a prolific guitarist who fused jazz, classical and Latin styles, has died. He was 74. 

 Byrd died Tuesday of cancer. 

 During a career that spanned five decades, Byrd recorded more than 100 albums, one as recently as September. Many of those recordings were with his Charlie Byrd Trio, which included his brother, Joe Byrd, on bass. 

 Byrd grew up in Virginia and learned guitar from his father, a mandolin player. He was inspired to study jazz while stationed in Paris in 1945, and returned to New York to study jazz theory and composition at Harnett National Music School. 

 He added classical guitar to his repertoire after moving to Washington, D.C., in 1950, and he traveled to Italy in 1954 to study by invitation with the great Spanish classical guitarist Andres Segovia. 

 In the 1960s, he incorporated Brazilian rhythms into his music. ``Jazz Samba,'' an album recorded with Stan Getz, helped introduce the bossa nova to American audiences. 

 In 1997, Byrd was honored as the first Maryland Arts Treasure. This year, he was honored as a Knight of the Rio Branco by the government of Brazil. 

 ``He's so versatile and so widely experienced, and his technique is so solid in so many different kinds of music,'' said John Spitzer, who teaches music history at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. ``There's really a great range of expression that you don't find in any other jazz guitarist that I know of.'' 

 Byrd is survived by his wife, Rebecca, two daughters, one granddaughter and two brothers.  
 

    
Jazz Guitarist Charlie Byrd Dies At 74

  

                     Charlie Byrd, the guitarist whose interpretations 
                     of Brazilian bossa nova music provided a crucial 
                     boost to that music's popularity in the United 
                     States, died Thursday (Dec. 2) in Annapolis, Md. 
                     after a struggle with cancer. He was 74.  

                     In 1962, Charlie Byrd released the Verve album Jazz Samba 
                     in collaboration with saxophonist Stan Getz. A tuneful 
                     exploration of the Brazilian bossa nova sound, it became one 
                     of the most popular jazz albums of the decade and 
                     crystallized the style's popularity in this country. Byrd 
                     released a subsequent string of Brazilian-influenced albums, 
                     the most recent being last year's Concord Records set My 
                     Inspiration -- Music Of Brazil.  

                     A statement from Concord Records' executive VP John Burke 
                     says, in part, "Charlie's passing is a tremendous loss to the 
                     jazz world and to all of us at Concord Records. On a more 
                     personal level, Charlie was not only a great artist, but he 
                     was a true gentleman and a true friend. He was, and always 
                     will be a member of the Concord family and a part of our 
                     legacy. He will be fondly missed."  

                     Born in Suffolk, Va. On Sept. 16, 1925, Charles L. Byrd was 
                     the son of a guitarist who first picked up the instrument at 
                     age 10. He continued his musical studies at Virginia Tech and 
                     during his stint in the Army. While stationed in France after 
                     the Second World War, Byrd met and played with legendary 
                     jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.  

                     Upon his return to the U.S., Byrd performed with pianists 
                     Barbara Carroll and Freddie Slack, and studied at New York's 
                     Hartnett Music School. But in the 1950s, Byrd turned his 
                     attentions toward classical music, studying with noted 
                     artists Andres Segovia and Sophocles Papas. The influence 
                     of his classical training is evident on Byrd's first solo releases 
                     for the Savoy label, including his excellent 1957 album Jazz 
                     Recital.  

                     Byrd recorded music for U.S. Department of Agriculture films 
                     in the late 1950s, and in 1961, was part of a contingent of 
                     American musicians sent on a State Department tour of 
                     South America. Byrd's experiences in Brazil made him an 
                     enthusiastic convert to that country's burgeoning new 
                     musical styles, as exemplified by the work of composer 
                     Antonio Carlos Jobim. Byrd played tapes of the Brazilian 
                     music to Getz, and the pair joined together to record Jazz 
                     Samba, which made hits of Jobim melodies "Desafinado" and 
                     "Samba de Uma Nota So (One Note Samba)."  

                     Over the years, Byrd recorded for the Riverside, Milestone 
                     and Columbia labels; toured extensively; performed with 
                     symphony orchestras and was the author of popular 1973 
                     textbook Charlie Byrd's Melodic Method For Guitar. Since the 
                     1970s, he's been a Concord recording artist, releasing around 
                     20 albums for the label. Most recently, he's performed with 
                     his group the Washington Guitar Quartet 

                                                          -- Drew Wheeler

 
LA TIMES
        
 Charlie Byrd; Jazz Guitarist Helped Boost Bossa Nova
                                            From LA Times Staff and Wire Reports 
   
                                                 Charlie Byrd, the classically trained jazz guitar virtuoso who 
                                            helped introduce bossa nova music to the United States, died of 
                                            cancer Tuesday at his home in Annapolis, Md. He was 74.  
   
                                                 Comfortable with a wide range of music, Byrd recorded more 
                                          than 100 albums in a career that lasted five decades. Critics praised 
                                          him for his versatility, his quiet virtuosity and delicate, precise 
                                          lyricism. One critic called his music "polite jazz."  
   
                                                 His records included the million-seller "Jazz Samba" in 1962, 
                                            made with saxophonist Stan Getz and bassist Keter Betts, and the 
                                            Grammy-nominated "Brazilian Soul" in 1981. His final recording, a 
                                            still-untitled tribute to Louis Armstrong, is scheduled for release in 
                                            January by Concord Records.  
   
                                                 Starting in 1958 and continuing through the 1980s, Byrd made 
                                            several international trips as a goodwill ambassador for the State 
                                            Department, originally as a replacement for pianist Dave Brubeck.  
    
                                                 After a tour of Brazil and exposure to its burgeoning bossa nova 
                                            style of jazz, Byrd worked with Getz to help make the sound widely 
                                            popular here. To many collectors, their record, "Jazz Samba," 
                                            remains one of the most rewarding albums of its era.  
   
                                                 "The thing that really made it was . . . the warmness and 
                                            freshness of it with Stan Getz," said bassist Betts, who played with 
                                            Byrd from 1957 to 1964. To Americans, "it was a whole new 
                                            thing."  
   
                                                 An articulate, thoughtful man, Byrd also could be candid about 
                                            the hard road that a musician faces.  
   
                                                 In an interview earlier this year with The Washingtonian 
                                            magazine, Byrd was asked what it took for a musician to survive. 
                                            He answered that one needs to discard "the illusion that there's a 
                                            place waiting for you in the industry, some niche to fill."  
   
                                                 "Music's not like becoming a doctor, who can walk into a 
                                            community and find people who need him. A musician has to find a 
                                            way to make his music mean something special--spiritually or 
                                            however you can. And a musician has to learn to be frugal and to 
                                            carefully manage financial affairs."  
     
                                                 More importantly, he added, "A person should design the way 
                                            he makes a living around how he wishes to make a life."  
   
                                                 Asked why he chose the guitar, he responded: "The guitar chose 
                                            me. I played other instruments at times, but none of them suited me 
                                            like the guitar. It's something done with the hands, and I'm oriented 
                                            that way. If I weren't a guitarist, I'd be an artisan or cabinetmaker 
                                            or sculptor."  
   
                                                 Music infiltrated every part of his life, including his love of the 
                                            water. He named his cabin cruiser "B Minor 7 Flat 5," which his 
                                            sister-in-law, Elana Byrd, said was "a tricky guitar chord he liked."  
                                            He later changed the boat's name to "I'm Hip."  
  
                                                 Charlie Lee Byrd was born in Suffolk, Va., and grew up in the 
                                          Tidewater community of Chuckatuck. He learned guitar as a child 
                                          from his mandolinist father, who ran a general store where musicians 
                                          gathered. As a youngster, Byrd played on radio shows in a family 
                                          band, which included his brother on bass.  
  
                                                 During World War II, he served in the Army in Europe, first as 
                                          an infantryman and then in the Special Services division entertaining 
                                          troops. He also met the gifted Belgian guitarist Django Reinhardt, an 
                                          encounter Byrd partly credited for his career choice.  
     
                                                 Byrd attended Harnett National Music School in New York and 
                                            spent the next decade playing with jazz musicians Joe Marsala and 
                                            Freddie Slack as well as classical guitarists Sophocles Papas and 
                                            Andres Segovia.  
          
                                                 His first record was "Jazz Recital" in 1957, and a succession of 
                                            others followed, including a collection of 16th century compositions 
                                            called "Classical Byrd" in 1958 and 1960. His widest fame came 
                                            with the Getz album in 1962.  
     
                                                 Byrd also wrote scores for the films "Dead to the World" in 
                                            1961 and "Bleep" in 1970, as well as music for stage productions in 
                                            the 1970s. Among those were "The Conversation of Patrolman 
                                            O'Connor," produced on Broadway, and a production of 
                                            Tennessee Williams' "The Purification" at Arena Stage.  
             
                                               Despite his broad musical tastes, in recent years he revisited jazz 
                                            standards. And although he once said his playing was "pretty much 
                                            the Segovia technique," he disliked fusing music styles, such as jazz 
                                            and classical.  
   
                                                 "It's a wedding that loses the best of both," he said. "It destroys 
                                            the fire of jazz, which should be hotblooded and swing hard, and it 
                                            makes inferior classical music."  
             
                                                 Survivors include his wife of one year, Rebecca Byrd of 
                                            Annapolis; a daughter from his first marriage, Carol M. Rose of 
                                            Charlotte, N.C.; a daughter from his second marriage, Charlotte E. 
                                            Byrd of Santa Cruz, Calif.; two brothers, Jack R. Byrd of Suffolk, 
                                            Va., and Gene H. "Joe" Byrd of Edgewater, Md., and a 
                                            granddaughter.  
 
 
 
 
       
 

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All-Music Guide
 
 Born:  Sept. 16, 1925 in Chuckatuck, VA
 Died:  Nov. 30, 1999 in Annapolis, MD
 
      Charlie Byrd has two notable accomplishments to his credit - applying acoustic 
      classical guitar techniques to jazz and popular music and helping to introduce 
      Brazilian music to mass North American audiences. Tasteful, low-key, and  
      ingratiatingly melodic, Byrd is always a pleasure to listen to in concert. Born  
      into a musical family, Byrd experienced his first brush with greatness while a  
      teenager in France during World War II, playing with his idol Django Reinhardt.  
      After some postwar gigs with Sol Yaged, Joe Marsala and Freddie Slack, Byrd  
      temporarily abandoned jazz to study classical guitar with Sophocles Papas in  
      1950 and Andrés Segovia in 1954.  However he re-emerged later in the decade  
      gigging around the Washington D.C. area in jazz settings, often splitting his sets  
      into distinct jazz and classical segments. He started recording for Savoy as a  
      leader in 1957, and also recorded with the Woody Herman band in 1958-59. A  
      tour of South America under the aegis of the U.S. State Department in 1961  
      proved to be a revelation, for it was in Brazil that Byrd discovered the emerging  
      bossa nova movement. Once back in D.C., he played some bossa nova tapes to  
      Stan Getz, who then convinced Verve's Creed Taylor to record an album of Brazilian music with himself and Byrd. That album Jazz Samba became a pop hit in 1962 on he strength of the single "Desafinado" and launched the bossa nova wave in North America. Thanks to the bossa nova, several albums for Riverside followed, including he defining Bossa Nova Pelos Passaros, and he was able to land a major contract with Columbia, though the records from that association often consisted of watered-down easy-listening pop. In 1973, he formed the group Great Guitars with Herb Ellis and Barney Kessel and also that year, wrote an instruction manual for the guitar that has become widely used. From 1974 onward, Byrd recorded for the Concord Jazz label in a variety of settings, including sessions with Laurindo Almeida and Bud Shank.-- Richard S. Ginell, All-Music Guide
 
 
Concord Biography
                                  Charlie Byrd has been perfecting the sounds of the 
                                  guitar for nearly six decades and at the age of 71, is 
                                  showing no signs of slowing down. Along with his 
                                  performances in the Great Guitars, Charlie consistently 
                                  continues to record outstanding solo and group projects 
                                  for Concord. Included among them are last year's tribute 
                                  to boyhood idol Django Reinhardt for Concord Jazz and 
                                  two critically acclaimed records with the Washington 
                                  Quintet on the Concord Concerto label. 

                                  Born in 1925, in Chuckatuck, Virginia, Charlie was first 
                                  introduced to the basics of guitar by his father. By the 
                                  early fifties Byrd had established himself as one of the 
                                  premier guitarists in the East Coast jazz scene. The 
                                  lack of opportunity, however, inspired him to move to 
                                  Washington D.C., intent on furthering his study of 
                                  classical guitar. 

                                  Under the tutelage of Sophocles Papas and later 
                                  Andres Segovia, Charlie spent a good potion of the 
                                  decade as a concert guitarist. The distinct Byrd sound 
                                  and style that jazz fans have come to know and love 
                                  was established when he returned to jazz in the late 
                                  fifties, fusing his classical technique with jazz voicing 
                                  and concepts, first hooking up with Woody Herman and 
                                  then later recording as a leader for Savoy. 

                                  In the early sixties after a State Department tour of 
                                  South America led to a keen (and never ending) interest 
                                  in Latin sounds, Byrd recorded the album Jazz Samba 
                                  with Stan Getz in 1962. This seminal recording was 
                                  incredibly successful and is credited with introducing 
                                  the gorgeous melodies and infectious rhythms of the 
                                  Bossa Nova to the United States and the world over. 

                                  In 1974 Charlie formed the Great Guitars with fellow 
                                  luminaries Herb Ellis and Barney Kessel. The highly 
                                  influential group made five records together and received 
                                  great critical acclaim and recognition for revitalizing the 
                                  energy and artistry of jazz guitar during a period when 
                                  the popularity of jazz music, in general, was severely 
                                  waning.

 
 
  
 
 

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