Review Summary: You will want to go to your nearest jazz bar and hope for a Byrd sound to appear on stage.
Cool Jazz is one of those music genres that is flawless to the ear in everyday life. There’s no banter to the ears of the listener. And that’s quite the same with Hard Bop, too. It’s upbeat, it’s powerful and it’s plain fun! Yet, there wasn’t a lot of jazz artists of the late 1950’s that were able to combine a mixture of Cool Jazz and Hard Bop in the space of six tracks. It was either black or white. But, one man by the name of Donald Byrd was, indeed, one of the main protagonists to fuse these two types of separate jazz, making “Byrd In Hand” a gentle finish to the first half decade of popular and historic jazz.
“Witchcraft” begins his second commercial release with a grand and typical Byrd trumpet entrance, a bubbly Sam Jones bass piece and a Walter Davis piano ambience. There is a great admiration for this track, as it’s very equal between the musicians, taking part. Turn after turn, the piano brings a celestial message to the mind, following a smooth tenor sax by Charlie Rouse. Not only the most aesthetic on this album, but probably one of the most peaceful pieces by Byrd in a collection of forty-eight years worth of jazz mania.
Following “Witchcraft”, brings a mystical entry to “Here Am I” with Davis on piano, and what I adore about this fine piece is that, from a captured sound of curiosity and unease, the orchestra transforms to a common but sweet cool jazz motion. But the song is truly accommodated by Jones’ bass-lines with the upbeat spirit of the jam to perfection.
“Bronze Dance” is on the exception of my adoration for this release. It has its beautiful sides to it with the tenor sax, collaborating swiftly with the piano, but it seems like a giant battle for all the instruments to combine together to make one giant masterpiece, but none of it syncs well when the baritone decides to jump in, then the tenor, then the piano, as if playing a song of its own, guided by the crackling of the drums. Saying so, it all fuses together perfectly near the termination of the near-seven minute track.
Hard Bop is then featured on this album with three of the tracks which are “Devil Whip”, “Clarion Calls” and “The Injuns”. “Devil Whip” is a cute combination of cool and hard bop jazz, nearly tipping off the ice-berg of normal soft bop, which is also described as plain smooth, cool jazz. The major difference on this piece in comparison to the others is that it’s a softer drum beat to “Clarion Calls” and “The Injuns”, and holds a rougher but more divine drum sector than the cool jazz pieces as mentioned previously. It is probably my least favourite piece on the LP, but it is no disappointment.
“Clarion Calls” and “The Injuns” for the listener’s assurance, makes “Byrd In Hand” a must-buy, due to their varied instrumental positioning in both tracks. Such as Sam Jones’ bass switching the beat with the guidance of Davis’ piano key variations and Art Taylor’s constant continuation of diverse drum beats. “The Injuns”, in the great defence of Donald Byrd, starts to signal the birth of jazz-fusion, with the fusing of an African drum effect and a tribal sax intro, and throughout the track on certain but structured sectors, featured with easy-listen and funky hard bop.
In a nutshell, “Byrd In Hand” is a great album to have when you just want to chill-out and relax to soft and furious jazz pieces. Music-wise, it is very repetitive and doesn’t share too much diversity as the LP flows through the six tracks. But when you buy this very soothing 1959 production, you will want to go to your nearest jazz bar and hope for a Byrd sound to appear on stage.