Charlie Byrd was among the most special and fascinating guitar players in jazz and pop music. He was a promising adherent of gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, a talented song writer, and a performer that played in show business with Tennessee Williams’ play “The Purification” and on the concert stage along with Woody Herman’s band. Charlie Byrd was a leading supporter of the nylon string guitar as a jazz solo instrument when everyone else was going electric and a student of classic guitarist Andres Segovia that sought to combine classical guitar techniques along with jazz improvisation. His location in the annals of guitar lore would be ensured based just on those qualities.
In the 1950s Charlie Byrd was currently revolutionizing the music with his blend of jazz and classical guitar elements in a sympathetic 3 piece group that consisted of bassist Keeter Betts and percussionist Bertel Knox. Their repertory merged typical combo jazz along with Charlie Byrd’s solo classic guitar pieces. The trio experienced excellent popularity in the Washington D.C. downtown area and soon rose to the ranks of traveling American jazz ambassadors recruited by the State Department.
Nonetheless, Charlie Byrd’s primary accomplishment will always be deemed delivering the South American popular music called bossa nova to America pop culture and inevitably the world’s audiences. In a bigger sense, his initiatives and excellence precipitated the now common category of world music, then a niche and a curiosity market to many, now a familiar international exchange of cultures. Furthermore, along with Charlie’s recordings the art of jazz guitar music obtained another avenue of expression still considerably being used today, a half century since Byrd first made his mark with “Desafinado.”.
2012 celebrates the 50 year celebration of bossa nova guitar music getting into the pop culture, promoted by Charlie Byrd and his collaborator, saxophonist Stan Getz. Their hit single “Desafinado” reached No. 15 on the American Top 40 radio stations in October, 1962 and was a very early crossover success, among a handful in jazz. “Desafinado” stayed in U.S. pop playlists for 10 weeks and also reached No. 11 on the U.K. charts in 1962. What started as a concept and musical experiment imagined by Charlie Byrd swiftly assumed higher proportions and opened up the floodgates for the bossa nova fad that followed. Think about the subsequent outing by Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto, launched as the British Invasion was in full swing. “The Girl From Ipanema” climbed up to No. 5 in 1964 and was awarded a Grammy for Record Of The Year in 1965!
The unique, feel, and approach of bossa nova guitar music influenced numerous pop superstars, entertainers of all stripes, and well-known composers then and since. The success of bossa nova in the U.S.A. set the stage for the importing and international popularizing of local Brazilian musicians such as Antonio Carlos Jobim, Luiz Bonfa, Joao Gilberto, Bola Sete, Baden Powell, and Sergio Mendes.
In reconsideration, Charlie Byrd’s effect on the world’s popular music has actually been transcendent and profound and remains to reverberate in almost every corner of the entire world. He began playing the guitar at age nine and at first was taught by his father who played a variety of stringed instruments. Charlie’s very early influences were jazz and swing guitarists Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt. He listened to and played along with Django in Paris in the mid 1940′s while in a touring Army show band.