The new Jazz Bakery turned out to be a near-ideal setting for guitarist Charlie Byrd’s intimately swinging trio Wednesday night.
A conventional clubwould have been too noisy and distracting; a concert hall would have swallowed up the delicate if amplified acoustic guitar. But for this format the Bakery uniquely combined the close proximity of a club and the concentration level of a hall — and the tricky acoustics were no hindrance at all.
Byrd was one of the first to put bossa nova on the map in the early 1960s, actually cracking the top 20 with “Desafinado” in league with Stan Getz. Like Getz, he was versatile enough to diversify and outlast the craze — and at age 69 he still weaves a seductive spell with the ghosts of Django Reinhardt, Andres Segovia and now sadly, Antonio Carlos Jobim looking over his shoulder. He remains a regular in the studio; his new CD “Moments Like This” (Concord Jazz) finds him gently purveying standards with clarinetist Ken Peplowski.
Now and then one detected some strain and effort in the trio’s squeezing out of the music, a few weakly struck or left out notes, all the more noticeable because Byrd’s style can be so spare. But there was plenty of irresistible swing in “It’s a Wonderful World” and “Perdido” and toward the end of his set he offered some unpretentiously casual vocals in “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone” and “Blue Skies”– with Django-like obligatos in the latter.
Brazil remains Byrd’s most haunting musical destination as he and his cohorts evoked a mad samba-in-the-streets feeling on “Samba de Orpheus,” lingered lovingly over “Triste,” and turned “Wave” into a one-chord voodoo incantation. He also dipped briefly into the classics with a gracefully idiomatic rendition of Villa-Lobos’ Etude No. 7.
Bassist Andy Simpkins, who seems to be everywhere these days, supplied a formidable bass foundation and several eloquent solos. And drummer Paul Kreibech knew how to play effectively in this live room, often relying on subtle brushwork and scaling down the dynamics.