Jan 12, 2013
Fifty years ago today, Donald Byrd gathered a septet and gospel choir in Rudy Van Gelder's studios in New Jersey to record his latest project. Noted as a hard bop trumpet player, Byrd wanted to push the envelope a bit on this session, as he noted in the album liner notes:
I mean this album seriously. Because of my own background, I've always wanted to write an entire album of spiritual-like pieces. The most accurate way I can describe what we were all trying to do is that this is a modern hymnal. In an earlier period, the New Orleans jazzmen would often play religious music for exactly what it was - but with their own jazz textures and techniques added. Now, as modern jazzmen, we're also approaching this tradition with respect and great pleasure.
Five tracks from that day's recordings ended up on the album, none more haunting than the now classic, "Cristo Redentor", written by arranger Duke Pearson. The English translation of the title would be "Christ the Redeemer", and the title is an allusion to the 99 foot tall statue of Jesus Pearson saw in Brazil during a tour of South American with Nancy Wilson. The song beautifully captures what Byrd was reaching for - a sophisticated composition with changing keys and textures, but with an overriding feel of spirituality.
The band on this session is the usual top notch group of Blue
Note musicians of the early Sixties: Byrd on trumpet; Hank Mobley
on tenor sax; Herbie Hancock on piano; Kenny Burrell on guitar;
Conrad Best on vibes; Butch Warren on bass and
Lex Humphries on drums.