April 2009

Donald Byrd - Byrd in Flight
Blue Note/Classic Records 4048
Format: LP
Originally released: 1960
Reissue released: 2008

by Marc Mickelson

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

Trumpeter Donald Bryd was one of Blue Note's most prolific artists with over two dozen recordings to his name. He also played on numerous others from Blue Note notables. Byrd in Flight is, in fact, two separate quintet dates from early and mid-1960, and what star power the lineups had: Hank Mobley and Jackie McLean on sax, Doug Watkins and Reggie Workman on bass, Lex Humphries on drums, and tasteful sideman and Blue Note producer Duke Pearson on piano. This is quintessential Blue Note music for its tight, urgent playing that conveys the artfulness of jazz from this fertile era. Byrd's leadership is more cool than hot, with his playing adding easygoing lyricism, especially the slow, pensive soloing on the Pearson original "Gate City."

This is another in Classic Records' extensive catalog of mono titles remastered and cut on an all-tube, fully mono setup. There is keen inner detail and copious soundstage depth. Instrumental timbres are naturally portrayed. The 200-gram pressing using Classic's Quiex vinyl formulation is amazingly quiet. I also admire the jacket, which is authentically constructed, sturdy and crisp-looking. All things considered, this is a first-class package.

There were far more releases on vinyl in the 1970s, the decade that many consider the heyday of LP as a music carrier, than there are today, but the quality of what we have is unsurpassed -- even unapproached. Classic Records is at the forefront of the current resurgence, and releases like this one are yet another high-quality brick in an ever-growing wall.