World & Latin

Latin Liaison

08 APR 11 JOHN C. BRUENING

When American guitarist Charlie Byrd collaborated with São Paulo-born guitarist Laurindo Almeida on a few recordings in the 1980s, the results were hugely successful. Though hailing from disparate cultures on opposite sides of the equator, each spoke a language that the other understood implicitly, and the conversations between the two were as effortless as they were intricate. Two of these projects -- Brazilian Soul (1980) and Latin Odyssey (1982), both released on Concord Picante -- were reissued in 2003 as a two-CD set called Brazil And Beyond.

The first disc focuses primarily on the bossa nova of Brazil, while the second widens the scope to include a range of Latin styles. Disc 1 is a quartet date featuring bassist Bob Magnusson and percussionist Milt Holland and runs the gamut of sources, from Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Stone Flower" to various Brazilian classical pieces (by the likes of Ernesto Nazareth and Radamés Gnàttali) to Byrd's own composition, "For Jeff." The inclusion of the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice pop aria, "Don't Cry For Me Argentina," could have sounded kitschy in the wrong hands, but fits perfectly when delivered by these two masters.

Disc 2 is also a quartet recording, with Magnusson and Joe Byrd alternating on bass and Chuck Redd and Jeff Hamilton sharing drumming duties. It picks up where the previous disc leaves off, with a simple and elegant rendition of Webber's "Memory," followed by lush and engaging interpretations of works of several Latin composers, including Argentine Astor Piazzolla ("El Niño") and Spaniard Enric Madriguera ("Adios").

Byrd and Almeida died within a few years of each other in the 1990s, but their collaborations during the '80s -- the best of which can be found on this two-disc set -- are some of the most brilliant Latin guitar recordings of the late 20th century.

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    Stone Flower

    Laurindo Almeida & Charlie Byrd, from Braz ...