Donald Byrd – Transition Sessions – featuring Doug Watkins – 2CD

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SKU: Fresh Sound 0836 - 2CD Categories: ,


Transition Sessions: Byrd’s Eye View + Watkins At Large + Byrd Blows At Beacon Hill
(3 Lps On 2 Cds) + Bonus Track

Donald Byrd (1932-2013) was among the most creative of the post-Miles Davis generation of jazz trumpeters, already acclaimed when, at 23, he replaced Clifford Brown in Art Blakey’s Messengers in 1955. On “Byrd’s Eye View,” the first of these early Byrd studio dates for the small Transition label, he had his Jazz Messengers colleagues, Mobley, Silver, Watkins and Blakey, along with Boston trumpeter Joe Gordon, whose more outgoing style complemented Byrd’s supple, lyrical, rather introverted approach and fresh conception on an improvising session full of heated, crisp exchanges.

The second album, “Watkins at Large,” was bassist Doug Watkins’ first date as a leader and a great example of his confident soloing. Byrd is again in vividly dramatic form, with authoritative playing by Mobley and Burrell, sustained by a vigorous rhythm section nourished by the blues rooted drive of Watkins’ bass, the warmth and fluidity of Jordan’s piano and Taylor’s sturdy support. Intensity and skill are married to cohesive emotional purpose.

The last date is Byrd’s. On “Byrd Blows on Beacon Hill,” he is accompanied by the inventive Ray Santisi’s trio, with Watkins’ big bass and the swinging work of Jim Zitano delivering a thoroughly session (even on the uptempo If I Love Again) marked by Byrd’s thoughtful horn.

Track Listing:

1. Doug’s Blues (Watkins) 12:07   2. El Sino (Harneefan-Mageed) 10:02   3. Everything Happens to Me (Dennis-Adair) 5:44   4. Hank’s Tune (Mobley) 7:42   5. Hank’s Other Tune (Mobley) 7:28   6. Crazy Rhythm (Meyer-Kahn-Caesar) 7:33   7. Phil T. McNasty’s Blues (Horace Silver) 4:53   8. More of the Same (Thad Jones) 10:01

1. Panonica (Duke Jordan) 3:48   2. Return to Paradise (Dimitri Tiomkin) 12:47   3. Phinupi (Kenny Burrell) 9:21   4. 4 Little Rock Getaway (Joe Sullivan) 7:02   5. Polka Dots and Moonbeams (Burke-Van Heusen) 7:18   6. People Will Say We’re In Love (Rodgers-Hammerstein II) 3:36   7. If I Love Again (Oakland-Murray) 4:39   8. What’s New (Haggart-Burke) 4:59   9. Stella by Starlight (Young-Washington) 3:40


CD 1, tracks #1-5 from the album “Byrd’s Eye View” (Transition TRLP-4)

CD 1, track #6 from the sampler album “Jazz in Transition” (Transition TRLP-30)

CD 1, tracks #7-8 & CD 2, tracks #1-3 from the Doug Watkins' album “Watkins at Large” (Transition TRLP-20)

CD 2, tracks #4-9 from the album “Blows at Beacon Hill” (Transition TRLP-7)

Personnel in "Byrd’s Eye View":
Donald Byrd, Joe Gordon (#1,2,4,6), trumpets; Hank Mobley, tenor sax (#1,3-5); Horace Silver, piano; Doug Watkins, bass; Art Blakey, drums.
Recorded at Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts, on December 2, 1955

Personnel in "Watkins at Large":
Donald Byrd, trumpet; Hank Mobley, tenor sax; Kenny Burrell, guitar; Duke Jordan, piano; Doug Watkins, bass; Art Taylor, drums.
Recorded in Boston, Massachusetts, Dec. 8, 1956

Personnel in "Blows at Beacon Hill":
Donald Byrd (#4,5,7,9), trumpet; Ray Santisi, piano; Doug Watkins, bass; Jim Zitano, drums.
Recorded at Beacon Hill, Boston, Massachusetts, on May 7, 1956

Original Transition recordings produced by Tom Wilson
Recording engineers: Arnie Ginsberg (TRLP-4), Bob Guy (TRLP-20) and Stephen Fassett (TRLP-7)
Re-mastering: Rudy Van Gelder

This CD release produced by Jordi Pujol


1. - George W. Harris - November 3, 2014) 
"Trumpeter Don Byrd died last year, and it was hardly even noticed. At one time, he was THE hard bop trumpeter, bridging the gap between Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard. He is heard on a gazillion Blue Note and Fantasy albums in the 50s and 60s, worked with the Jazz Messengers, and even had some major selling albums. Here, we find him in his early years, and it’s a joy to hear such fervent and exciting music that oozes out from his horn.

With the disaster that Detroit is these days, it’s hard to imagine that at one time the Motor City was a hub of swinging jazz. On the first single disc, Donald Byrd leads a sextet of locals at a gig at The World Stage in good old Detroit on a August ’55 gig, and it sizzles! And the hometown artists? How do you feel about Yusef Lateef/ts, Barry Harris/p, Alvin Jackson/b, Frank Grant/dr and Bernard McKinney/euph for a night of sounds? Lateef’s tenor rolls in like a Mach Truck on the smoky “Yusef” and the whole band sways on “Blues Walk.” Byrd’s horn glows on “Dancing in the Dark” and some exciting street sounds frame the peppy “Parisian Thoroughfare.” Bop was in the air that night, and they come across as its emissaries!

The two disc Transition Sessionshas Byrd with his hometown buddy Doug Watkins/b in a variety of settings for the short lived Boston-based Transition label in ’55 and ’60. The Byrd’s Eye View session from 1955 is essentially the prototype of the Original Jazz Messengers with Hank Mobley/ts, Horace Silver/p, Art Blakey/dr, Watkins and Joe Gordon for an extra measure of trumpet. Byrd is once again a delight on the lyrical “Everything Happens to Me” while the mood is deep and riveting as Watkins delivers a hip intro to “Doug’s Blues” before the horns get a chance to stretch out. Mobley’s horn is as slick as fresh corduroy jeans on “Hank’s Tune “ and the two horns flutter together like harmonious and happy hummingbirds on”Crazy Rhythm.”Just as enjoyable is the 1956 session with Byrd, Mobley and Watkins with fellow Detroiter Kenny Burrell/g and Duke Jordan/p with Art Taylor/dr. Watkins is the leader on this session, and the grooves skip along well on “Phil T. McNasty’s Blues” while Burrell swings like the juke joint is jumping on “More of the Same.” Byrd leads the last session on the 2 disc set on another ’56 date, this one a quartet setting with Ray Santisi/p, Jim Zitano/dr and Watkins. Santisi gets the spotlight on a couple of tuens such as “People Will Say We’re In Love” and “What’s New” and makes you wish he had more albums out on his own. Byrd, once again, takes the mantle for ballads such as “Polka Dots and Moonbeans” and glows like a sunrise on “If I Love Again.” Simply delightful music here."

George W. Harris (November 3, 2014)

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