With the passing of Donald Byrd, this album has been very much on my mind. I can’t remember exactly how I came across this record. I know that I had it while living in Atlanta, so I might have gotten it out there, or on a trip to Chicago or New York. I’m sure I was drawn to it because of what at the time was my recently developed love affair for all things Booker Little, who remains my favorite trumpet player. Running at a close second is likely Donald Byrd, so the two of these men playing together was well worth whatever price I paid for this one.
For quite some time, I was convinced that the signature song from this set, the exquisite and heartbreakingly beautiful “Quiet Temple” featured Booker Little’s trumpet. The way the opening notes flow out full of melancholy just sounded like Booker to me. But running across a discography of Booker’s work online started to get me to doubt that assessment and forced me to listen a bit more closely. More digital sleuthery confirmed that “Quiet Temple” features Donald Byrd solely on trumpet, in addition to Pepper Adams and Bill Evans. Part of the mystery is connected to the fact that this session was originally released on Warwick Records closer to the recording date of 1960. These songs were featured on a record called “Soul Of Jazz Percussion” which featured a large number of musicians in different configurations including all the aforementioned players plus Mal Waldron, Philly Joe Jones, Ed Shaugnessy, Paul Chambers, Curtis Fuller, Armando Peraza and more. Though the TCB version that I have gives both Donald Byrd & Booker Little top billing, the two masters only share three songs on the album, “Chasing The Bird,” “Wee Tina,” and “Call To Arms,” with Byrd as the soloist on “Prophesy” and “Quiet Temple.”
“Prophesy” sounds really different than most everything else I’ve heard from Byrd in this period of time. If you had told me that this was a Mingus composed or orchestrated track I would have believed you. I just sounds like a Mingus tune with the urgent rhythm and odd flourishes throughout. “Wee Tina” also sounds a bit different than what we’d associate with either Byrd or Booker, particularly because of the unique drum solo featuring what must be tiny tiny cymbals played by either Philly Joe Jones or percussionist Peraza.
But everything always comes back to “Quiet Temple.” Even with the imperfections of this particular pressing, the power of this song can’t be denied. The feel of the opening part, with the rhythm section and piano from Evans sets the contemplative tone, one that all conjures up a scene of rain falling steady in the night. When Byrd’s trumpet comes in there’s a mix of longing, sadness and perhaps a bit of loss that is further deepened by Pepper Adams soft baritone playing. The middle section, where the tempo picks up a bit seems like a memory of the past before things return back to those sad sad notes we heard at the beginning. And lord, the way that song ends, with that slowing down of the melody and into a totally unexpected crash of a gong or large cymbal. Breaks my heart every single time…just like the passing of another giant from the Earth.