Robert G. Leroe | Saugus, MA USA | 09/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is everything I look for in a jazz recording; serious, intelligent music played well. The sound quality is amazing considering it's a 1959 recording. Only the piano sounds a bit muddy (which seems a trademark for older jazz recordings), while the brass sounds clear and sharp as can be. This deserves to be in anyone's top-ten list of jazz recordings."
A Byrd Worth Getting Your Hands On
Samuel Chell | Kenosha,, WI United States | 09/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If your ear has a preference for the thoughtful, lyrical, fluent playing of early Byrd, consider "Byrd in Hand" an essential pick-up. I've heard only two other Byrd-led dates to match it: "Royal Flush" (featuring Herbie Hancock's first appearance on record and a balanced program performed to near perfection) and "The Transition Sessions" (a blowing session that gives Byrd and Mobley maximum room in which to create their special brand of melodic magic). "Byrd in Hand" fits somewhere in between: less carefully conceived, programmed and executed but more varied and fiery than the former session; less open and free-flowing but more receptive to innovative, original compositions than the latter.
On "Royal Flush" Byrd reveals a Sinatra-indebtedness with his poignant reading of "I'm a Fool to Want You"; on "Byrd in Hand" it's the swingin' side of Old Blue that comes out on the opening standard, "Witchcraft." Byrd's solo is alternately lyrical and, with a brief double-time melodic excursion, complex and anticipatory of the horn pyrotechnics to follow. Pepper Adams' baritone picks up on the intricacy of Byrd's double-time chorus and sets the stage for an underrated, virtuosic master of the tenor saxophone, Charlie Rouse. From then on, the session gets off its heels and stays there.
Rouse had recently joined Monk's Quartet, with whom he would remain throughout most of the 1960's. His soloing is so confident, brilliant yet controlled (he executes whirlwind passages with unfailing melodic logic and rhythmic drive, clean articulations and definitive wholeness) that both Byrd and Adams are pushed to play their best. Unlike "Royal Flush," an infectious but "relaxed" session that takes on some anticlimax during the last couple of tunes, "Byrd in Hand" picks up steam, ending on a high note, a moment that's still dramatic and building.
Finally, credit pianist Walter Davis, Jr., for knowing when to play and when to stay out of the way. His two compositions contributed for this occasion, unlike the comparatively ordinary original tunes comprising his own Blue Note date, "Davis Cup," anticipate the adventurous, challenging and exciting music that would come from his pen in the '70's, when he was by far the most important contributor to the book of Blakey's Jazz Messengers."