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JazzTimes 10: Essential Donald Byrd Recordings

Highlights from the catalog of an underrecognized trumpet great

5. Donald Byrd Band & Voices, “Cristo Redentor” (A New Perspective; Blue Note, 1963)

Byrd didn’t write “Cristo Redentor”; that was Duke Pearson (who, like Hancock, had marked his arrival as a pianist in the Byrd-Adams quintet). What’s more, it’s Hancock whose piano playing is the dominant improvisational factor. The vision behind this exquisite fusion of jazz and gospel choir, though, is Byrd’s—it was the concept of his A New Perspective album—and his clean, precise playing and elegant embellishments against the choir’s wordless vocal renders this unbearably poignant performance as one of his finest hours. Although there’s not a trace of Brazilian jazz therein, the piece evokes all of the awestruck majesty of the famous Brazilian statue for which it’s named.

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Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.