Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – When American jazz legend Charlie Byrd lived in Paris in the 1940s, he adapted the popular song “Un Homme et Une Femme” or “A Man and A Woman” for the American audience.
In my view, “Un Homme et Une Femme” by Francis Lai is one of the all-time killer songs for lovers. A close friend of mine from France reminded me about this romantic song, which is responsible for melting many hearts under the Eifel Tower (La Tour Eiffel) in Paris, city of romance! She is planning to start a blog featuring great love songs.
In 1945, while living in Paris – the city of love and romance – Byrd fell in love with jazz. After returning to the United States in 1950, he studied jazz theory and composition at Harnett National Music School. His studies gave him the skills to fuse jazz, blues, classical and Latin styles.
Byrd is credited with pioneering Brazil’s Bossa Nova music, which stole America’s heart. He will always be remembered for Bossa Nova recordings such as “Jazz Samba” which introduced the Brazilian music style to American audiences. Just before he died in 1999, Byrd was honored as a Knight of the Rio Branco by Brazilian government.
In addition to Bossa Nova, the prolific guitarist has left a legacy of more than 100 albums over a career spanning five decades. When Charlie Byrd died in December 1999, I produced a special obituary for him on my show, Jazz Club USA (Arabic mp3).
I remember listening to another great Charlie Byrd song when my brother returned home from Paris with an album (a vinyl record) titled Du Hot Club De Concord. The song is “Moon River” a rare recording of Charlie Byrd playing live at the Concorde (‘Place de la Concorde’), the largest thoroughfare in Paris, near the Champs-Élysées (mp3 here).
Byrd travelled to Italy in 1954 where he studied with the great Spanish classical guitarist Andres Segovia. Upon returning to the States, he worked with famous American musicians such as Stan Getz, Herb Ellis and Barney Kessel, and Brazilian Laurindo Almeida who blended classical with jazz, into a style that gained popularity among jazz fans.
In 1983, Byrd and Almeida released a joint album titled Latin Odyssey. Byrd’s career continued to flourish from the late 1950s until his death in 1999 at age 74.
For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America