Charlie Byrd

Charlie Lee Byrd (September 16, 1925 – December 2, 1999) was an American jazz guitarist. Byrd was best known for his association with Brazilian music, especially bossa nova. In 1962, he collaborated with Stan Getz on the album Jazz Samba, a recording which brought bossa nova into the mainstream of North American music.

Byrd played fingerstyle on a classical guitar.

Charlie Byrd
Charlie Byrd picture
Charlie Byrd performing with his trio in July 1997
Background information
Birth nameCharlie Lee Byrd
BornSeptember 16, 1925
Suffolk, Virginia, U.S.
OriginWashington, D.C.
DiedDecember 2, 1999 (aged 74)
Annapolis, Maryland, U.S.
GenresBossa nova, Latin jazz, swing
Years active1957–1999
LabelsSavoy, Riverside, Columbia, Concord Jazz
Associated actsCal Tjader, Keter Betts, Stan Getz, Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel, Annapolis Brass Quintet

Early life

Charlie Byrd was born in Suffolk, Virginia, in 1925 and grew up in the borough of Chuckatuck. His father, a mandolinist and guitarist, taught him how to play the acoustic steel guitar at age 10. Byrd had three brothers, Oscar, Jack, and Gene "Joe" Byrd, who was a bass player. In 1942 Byrd entered the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and played in the school orchestra. In 1943 he was drafted into the United States Army for World War II, saw combat, then was stationed in Paris in 1945 where he played in an Army Special Services band and toured occupied Europe in the all-soldier production G.I. Carmen.

After the war, Byrd returned to the United States and went to New York City, where he studied composition and jazz theory at the Harnett National Music School in Manhattan, New York City. During this time he began playing a classical guitar. After moving to Washington, D.C. in 1950, he studied classical guitar with Sophocles Papas for several years. In 1954 he became a pupil of the Spanish classical guitarist Andrés Segovia and spent time studying in Italy with Segovia.

Byrd's earliest and greatest influence was the gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, whom he saw perform in Paris.[1][2][3]


In 1957 Byrd met double bassist Keter Betts in a Washington, D.C., club called the Vineyard. The two began doing gigs together, and by October they were frequently performing at a club called the Showboat. In 1959 the pair joined Woody Herman's band and toured Europe for three weeks as part of a State Department-sponsored goodwill tour. The other members of the band were Vince Guaraldi, Bill Harris, Nat Adderley and drummer Jimmy Campbell.[4] Byrd led his own groups that sometimes featured his brother Joe. Byrd was also active as a teacher in the late 1950s; he trained guitar students at his home in Washington, D.C., each required to audition before he agreed to be their teacher.

Byrd was introduced to Brazilian music by Felix Grant, a friend and radio host who had contacts in Brazil in the late 1950s, and who was well-known there by 1960 due to the efforts of Brazilian radio broadcaster Paulo Santos. Following a spring 1961 diplomatic tour of South America (including Brazil) for the State Department, Byrd returned home and met with Stan Getz at the Showboat Lounge. Byrd invited Getz back to his home to listen to some bossa nova recordings by João Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim which he had brought back. Getz liked what he heard and the two decided that they wanted to make an album of the songs. The task of creating an authentic sound, however, proved much more challenging than either had anticipated.[5][6]

Getz convinced Creed Taylor at Verve Records to produce the album. Taylor and Byrd assembled a group of musicians they knew. These early sessions did not turn out to either man's liking, so Byrd gathered a group of musicians that had been to Brazil with him previously and practiced with them in Washington, D.C. until he felt they were ready to record. The group included his brother Gene ("Joe") Byrd, as well as Keter Betts, Bill Reichenbach and Buddy Deppenschmidt. Reichenbach and Deppenschmidt were drummers, and the combination made it easier to achieve samba rhythm. Finally the group was deemed ready and Getz and Taylor arrived in Washington, D.C. on February 13, 1962. They recorded in a building adjacent to All Souls Unitarian Church because of the building's excellent acoustics.[5]

Jazz Samba was released in April 1962, and by September it had entered the Billboard pop album chart. By March of the following year the album had moved to number one. The term "bossa nova" wasn't used until later. The album remained on the charts for seventy weeks, and Getz soon beat John Coltrane in a Down Beat poll. One of the album's most popular tunes was a Jobim hit, titled "Desafinado".[5]

Following the success of Jazz Samba, Byrd signed with Riverside Records, which rereleased six of his albums recorded for the small Offbeat label, a subsidiary of Washington Records.[7]

In 1963, Byrd toured Europe with Les McCann and Zoot Sims.[8] Between 1964 and 1965 he appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival with Episcopal priest Malcolm Boyd, accompanying prayers from his book Are You Running With Me Jesus? with guitar.[9] In 1967 Byrd brought a lawsuit against Stan Getz and MGM, contending that he was unfairly paid for his contributions to the 1962 album Jazz Samba. The jury agreed with Byrd and awarded him half the royalties from the album.[10]

In 1973 Byrd moved to Annapolis, Maryland, and in September of that year he recorded an album with Cal Tjader titled Tambú, the only recording the two would make together.[11] That same year Byrd joined guitarists Herb Ellis and Barney Kessel and formed the Great Guitars group, which also included drummer Johnny Rae.[11][12] Byrd collaborated with Venezuelan pianist and composer Aldemaro Romero on the album Onda Nueva/The New Wave.

From 1980 through 1996, he released several of his arrangements to the jazz and classical guitar community through Guitarist's Forum (, including Charlie Byrd's Christmas Guitar Solos, Mozart: Seven Waltzes For Classical Guitar, and The Charlie Byrd Library featuring the music of George Gershwin and Irving Berlin. He also collaborated with the Annapolis Brass Quintet in the late 1980s, appearing with them in over 50 concerts across the United States and releasing two albums.

Byrd played for several years at a jazz club in Silver Spring, Maryland, called The Showboat II which was owned and managed by his manager, Peter Lambros. He was also home-based at the King of France Tavern nightclub at the Maryland Inn in Annapolis from 1973 until his death in 1999. In 1992 the book "Jazz Cooks"—by Bob Young and Al Stankus—was published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, a compilation of recipes that include a few recipes from Byrd.[13] He also authored the 1973 publication Charlie Byrd's Melodic Method for Guitar.

On March 13, 14, 15, 16, 1963 Byrd travelled two hours south of Washington, DC to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville to provide music for an original musical, “Lament For Guitar and Two Lovers.” The play was by Lee Devin of the UVa drama department, with music for 10-piece ensemble by Sidney Hodkinsom of the UVa music department. Two night’s later on March 18, the Byrd trio played a concert at Cabell Hall, the university’s acoustic auditorium.[14]

Personal life

Byrd was married to Rebecca Byrd, and has two daughters from previous marriages, Carol Rose of Charlotte, NC, and Charlotte Byrd of Crownsville, MD. He loved sailboating, and owned a twenty-six-foot boat called "I'm Hip" that he sailed to various parts of the world.


Charlie Byrd died of lung cancer on December 2, 1999 at his home in Annapolis, Maryland at the age of 74.[15]


  • 1999 – Knighted by the government of Brazil as a Knight of the Rio Branco
  • 1997 – deemed a "Maryland Art Treasure" by the Community Arts Alliance of Maryland


Title Recorded Remarks
First Flight 1957 Savoy, Compilation from Jazz Recital (tracks 1–10) and Blues for Night People (tracks 11–17)
Jazz Recital 1957 Savoy, February 4, 1957
Blues for Night People 1957 Savoy, August 4, 1957; Same as Midnight Guitar with slight difference in the 1st track
Midnight Guitar 1957 Savoy, Same as Blues for Night People with slight difference in the 1st track
Byrd's Word! 1958 Offbeat / Riverside
Lodovico Roncalli Guitar Suites, Op.1 1959 Washington Records WR-429 credited as Charles Byrd
Byrd in the Wind 1959 Offbeat / Riverside
Mr. Guitar 1959 Offbeat / Riverside
The Guitar Artistry of Charlie Byrd 1960 Offbeat / Riverside
Charlie Byrd at the Village Vanguard 1961 Offbeat / Riverside
Blues Sonata 1961 Offbeat / Riverside
Jazz Samba 1962 Verve, with Stan Getz
Latin Impressions 1962 Riverside
Bossa Nova Pelos Passaros 1962 Riverside
Once More! Charlie Byrd's Bossa Nova 1963 Riverside
Guitar/Guitar 1963 Columbia, with Herb Ellis
Byrd at the Gate 1963 Riverside
Byrd Song 1964 Riverside
Brazilian Byrd 1965 Columbia
Travellin' Man 1965 Columbia
The Touch of Gold 1965 Columbia
Solo Flight 1965 Riverside
Byrdland 1966 Columbia CS 9392/CL 2592
The Byrd & The Herd – Charlie Byrd & Woody Herman 1966 Pickwick
Hollywood Byrd 1967 Columbia
More Brazilian Byrd 1967 Columbia
Christmas Carols for Solo Guitar 1967 Columbia
Charlie Byrd Guitar Artistry 1967 Riverside
Charlie Byrd Sketches of Brazil – Music of Villa-Lobos 1967 Columbia
Delicately 1968 Columbia
Hit Trip 1968 Columbia
The Great Byrd 1969 Columbia
Byrd Man with Strings 1969 Riverside
Charlie Byrd Plays the Greatest Hits of the 60's 1969 Columbia CS 9970
Let Go 1970 Columbia
For All We Know 1971 Columbia
The Stroke of Genius 1971 Columbia
Crystal Silence 1973 Fantasy
The World of Charlie Byrd 1973 Columbia
The New Wave (La Onda Nueva) 1974 Columbia, with Aldemaro Romero
Tambu 1974 Fantasy, with Cal Tjader
Byrd by the Sea 1974 Fantasy
Great Guitars 1975 Concord Jazz, live w/ Barney Kessel & Herb Ellis
Top Hat 1975 Fantasy
Great Guitars 2 1976 Concord Jazz, live w/ Barney Kessel & Herb Ellis
Charlie Byrd Swings Downtown 1976 Improve Media, live
Charlie Byrd 1977 Direct to Disc Recording
Charlie Byrd in Greenwich Village 1978 Milestone
Blue Byrd 1979 Concord Jazz
Sugarloaf Suite 1980 Concord Jazz, recorded live at the Concord Jazz Festival, Concord, California, August 1979
Great Guitars at the Winery 1980 Concord Jazz
Brazilville 1981 Concord Jazz, live w/ Bud Shank
Brazilian Soul 1981–1983 Hi-Res, with Laurindo Almeida
Latin Odyssey 1981–1983 with Laurindo Almeida
The Charlie Byrd Christmas Album 1982 Concord Jazz
Isn't It Romantic 1984 Concord Jazz
Tango 1985 Groove Note
Byrd and Brass 1986 Concord Jazz, w/Annapolis Brass Quintet
It's a Wonderful World 1988 Concord Jazz
Christmas with Byrd and Brass 1989 w/Annapolis Brass Quintet
Great Guitars: Straight Tracks 1991 w/ Herb Ellis & Barney Kessel
Rise and Shine 1992 Newport Classic
The Washington Guitar Quintet 1992 Concord Jazz
Music to Dine By 1993 Leisure Audio
Aquarelle 1993 Concord Jazz
I've Got the World on a String 1994 Timeless
Moments Like This 1994 Concord Jazz
Jazz & Samba 1995
Du Hot Club De Concord 1995 Concord Jazz
Live at Music Room 1996 Valley Vue, live
Return of the Great Guitars 1996 Concord Jazz, live w/ Herb Ellis & Mundell Lowe
Latin Byrd 1996 Milestone, compilation album
Au Courant 1997 Concord Jazz
My Inspiration: Music of Brazil 1999 Concord Jazz
For Louis 2000 Concord Jazz
Charlie Byrd 2000 Delta
Byrd in the Wind 2002 Riverside
Charlie Byrd Plays Jobim 2002
Bamba Samba Bossa Nova 2005 Empire Music Group
Aquarius 2005 Columbia
Byrd at the Gate: Charlie Byrd Trio at the Village Gate 2005 Original Jazz Classics, extended CD Release, live
Everybody's Doin' the Bossa Nova 2005 Riverside
Great Guitars Concord Jazz 2005 Concord Jazz, live
Let Go 2005
Lodovico Roncalli Suites 2005
Music of the Brazilian Masters 2005 Concord Picante, with Laurindo Almeida and Carlos Barbosa-Lima
World of Charlie Byrd 2005 [16]

As sideman

With Buck Clayton and Tommy Gwaltney's Kansas City 9

With Helen Merrill

With Joe Glazer

  • Garbage and Other Songs of Our Times (Collector, 1971)


  1. ^ Hurwitz, Tobias. "Fly Away Home". Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved June 7, 2007.
  2. ^ "Jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd dies at 74". Archived from the original on October 8, 2008. Retrieved 2007-06-07.
  3. ^ "Charlie Byrd:Legends of Music". Archived from the original on June 12, 2007. Retrieved June 7, 2007.
  4. ^ Price, Suzi. "Legendary Bassist, Keter Betts". Archived from the original on July 2, 2007. Retrieved June 7, 2007.
  5. ^ a b c Gelly, Dave (2004). Stan Getz: Nobody Else But Me (A Musical Biography). Backbeat Books. p. 120. ISBN 0-87930-729-3.
  6. ^ Roberts, John Storm (1999). The Latin Tinge: The Impact of Latin American Music on the United States. Oxford University Press. p. 171. ISBN 0-19-512101-5.
  7. ^ Offbeat Records catalog accessed October 31, 2012
  8. ^ Doerschuk, Robert L. (2001). 88: The Giants of Jazz Piano. Backbeat Books. p. 133. ISBN 0-87930-656-4.
  9. ^ Boyd, Malcolm (2001). Simple Grace: A Mentor's Guide to Growing Older. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 104. ISBN 0-664-22373-7.
  10. ^ Holley, Joe. "James Goding; Lawyer in Royalties Case". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-06-07.
  11. ^ a b Yanow, Scott (2000). Afro-Cuban Jazz. Backbeat Books. p. 144. ISBN 0-87930-619-X.
  12. ^ Sallis, James (1996). The Guitar in Jazz: An Anthology. University of Nebraska Press. p. 114. ISBN 0-8032-4250-6.
  13. ^ Fabricant, Florence (July 8, 1992). "Jazz Makers Swing From Ham Hocks To Health Food". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-06-06.
  14. ^ Theater program from the production
  15. ^ "Jazz legend Byrd dies". BBC News. December 3, 1999. Retrieved 2007-06-07.
  16. ^ "Charlie Byrd | Album Discography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
1960s in jazz

In the late 1960s, Latin jazz, combining rhythms from African and Latin American countries, often played on instruments such as conga, timbale, güiro, and claves, with jazz and classical harmonies played on typical jazz instruments (piano, double bass, etc.) broke through. There are two main varieties: Afro-Cuban jazz was played in the US right after the bebop period, while Brazilian jazz became more popular in the 1960s. Afro-Cuban jazz began as a movement in the mid-1950s as bebop musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and Billy Taylor started Afro-Cuban bands influenced by such Cuban and Puerto Rican musicians as Xavier Cugat, Tito Puente, and Arturo Sandoval. Brazilian jazz such as bossa nova is derived from samba, with influences from jazz and other 20th-century classical and popular music styles. Bossa is generally moderately paced, with melodies sung in Portuguese or English. The style was pioneered by Brazilians João Gilberto and Antônio Carlos Jobim. The related term jazz-samba describes an adaptation of bossa nova compositions to the jazz idiom by American performers such as Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd.

Bossa nova was made popular by Elizete Cardoso's recording of Chega de Saudade on the Canção do Amor Demais LP, composed by Vinícius de Moraes (lyrics) and Antonio Carlos Jobim (music). The initial releases by Gilberto and the 1959 film Black Orpheus brought significant popularity in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America, which spread to North America via visiting American jazz musicians. The resulting recordings by Charlie Byrd and Stan Getz cemented its popularity and led to a worldwide boom with 1963's Getz/Gilberto, numerous recordings by famous jazz performers such as Ella Fitzgerald (Ella Abraça Jobim) and Frank Sinatra (Francis Albert Sinatra & Antônio Carlos Jobim), and the entrenchment of the bossa nova style as a lasting influence in world music for several decades and even up to the present.

Big Band Bossa Nova (Stan Getz album)

Big Band Bossa Nova is a 1962 album by saxophonist Stan Getz with the Gary McFarland Orchestra. The album was arranged and conducted by Gary McFarland and produced by Creed Taylor for Verve Records. This was Stan's second bossa nova album for Verve following Jazz Samba, his very successful collaboration with guitarist Charlie Byrd.

The music was recorded at the CBS 30th Street Studio in New York City on August 27 and 28, 1962.

Bill Reichenbach Jr.

William Frank Reichenbach Jr. (born November 30, 1949) is an American jazz trombonist and composer. He is the son of Bill Reichenbach, who was the drummer for Charlie Byrd from 1962 to 1973. He is best known as a session musician for television, films, cartoons, and commercials. He recorded a solo album, Special Edition, where he is featured on tenor as well as bass trombone.

Blues Sonata

Blues Sonata is an album by American jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd featuring tracks recorded in 1961 and released on the Riverside label in 1963.The album was first released on the Washington Records Offbeat imprint but only received limited distribution prior to Byrd signing with Riverside.

Bossa Nova Pelos Passaros

Bossa Nova Pelos Passaros is an album by American jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd featuring tracks recorded in 1962 and released on the Riverside label.

Buddy Deppenschmidt

William Henry "Buddy" Deppenschmidt (born February 16, 1936, Philadelphia, Pa.) is an American jazz drummer, known for recording the seminal 1962 album Jazz Samba along with Stan Getz, Charlie Byrd, Keter Betts, Joe (Gene) Byrd, and Bill Reichenbach.

Byrd's Word!

Byrd's Word! is an album by American jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd with tracks recorded in 1958 and released on the Riverside label in 1962. The album was first released on the Washington Records Offbeat imprint as Jazz at the Showboat

Byrd Song

Byrd Song (subtitled Charlie Byrd with Voices) is an album by American jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd featuring tracks recorded in 1964 and released on the Riverside label.

Byrd at the Gate

Byrd at the Gate is a live album by the American jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd of tracks recorded at The Village Gate in 1963 and released on the Riverside label.

Charlie Byrd at the Village Vanguard

Charlie Byrd at the Village Vanguard is a live album by American jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd featuring tracks recorded at the Village Vanguard in 1961 and released on the Riverside label in 1963. The album was first released on the Washington Records Offbeat imprint but only received limited distribution prior to Byrd signing with Riverside.

Chuck Redd

Chuck Redd (born September 10, 1958) is an American jazz drummer and vibraphonist.


"Desafinado," a Portuguese word (usually rendered into English as "Out of Tune", or as "Off Key"), is the title of a bossa nova song composed by Antônio Carlos Jobim with lyrics (in Portuguese) by Newton Mendonça. It was originally a response to critics who claimed that bossa nova was a new genre for singers who can't sing. The English language lyrics were written by Jon Hendricks and "Jessie Cavanaugh" (a pseudonym used by The Richmond Organisation). Another English lyric, more closely based on the original Portuguese lyric (but not a translation) was written by Gene Lees, and appears on some recordings as well. The version by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd (from the album Jazz Samba) was a major hit in 1962, reaching number 15 and number 4 on Billboard′s pop and easy-listening charts, respectively; their definitive rendering also reached number 11 in the UK, while Ella Fitzgerald's version made number 38. The song was voted by the Brazilian edition of Rolling Stone as the 14th greatest Brazilian song.

Jazz Samba

Jazz Samba is a bossa nova album by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd released by Verve Records in 1962. Jazz Samba signaled the beginning of the bossa nova craze in America. Stan Getz was the featured soloist and the tracks were arranged by Charlie Byrd, who had first heard bossa nova during a tour of Brazil in 1961.

Getz and Byrd were accompanied by two bassists: Keter Betts and Joe Byrd, Charlie Byrd's brother who also played guitar. They were joined by two drummers: Buddy Deppenschmidt and Bill Reichenbach. The album was recorded at All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, D.C. on February 13, 1962 and released in April of that year.Two songs, "Desafinado" (Off Key or Out of Tune) and "Samba de Uma Nota Só" (One Note Samba) were composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim and were released as singles in the U.S. and Europe. Charlie Byrd wrote one song, and the rest were by Brazilian composers.Stan Getz won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Performance of 1963 for "Desafinado", and went on to make many other bossa nova recordings, notably with João Gilberto and Astrud Gilberto and the popular song "The Girl from Ipanema".

Robert Dimery included Jazz Samba in his book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. The painting on the cover is by Olga Albizu.

Keter Betts

William Thomas "Keter" Betts (July 22, 1928 – August 6, 2005) was an American jazz double bassist. Born in Port Chester, New York, he was nicknamed "Keter", a short form of the word mosquito.

Latin Impressions

Latin Impressions is an album by American jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd featuring tracks recorded in 1962 and released on the Riverside label.

Mr. Guitar (album)

Mr. Guitar is an album by American jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd featuring tracks recorded in 1960 and released on the Riverside label in 1962. The album was first released on the Washington Records Offbeat imprint as Jazz at the Showboat, Vol. 3 but only received limited distribution prior to Byrd signing with Riverside.

Once More! Charlie Byrd's Bossa Nova

Once More! Charlie Byrd's Bossa Nova is an album by American jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd featuring tracks recorded in 1963 and released on the Riverside label.

Solo Flight (Charlie Byrd album)

Solo Flight is an album by American jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd featuring tracks recorded in 1964 and released on the Riverside label.

The Guitar Artistry of Charlie Byrd

The Guitar Artistry of Charlie Byrd is an album by American jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd featuring tracks recorded in 1960 and released on the Riverside label in 1963.The album was first released on the Washington Records Offbeat imprint as Charlie's Choice: Jazz at the Showboat, Vol. 4 but only received limited distribution prior to Byrd signing with Riverside.

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