Friday, September 12, 2014

"The Jitterbug Waltz" – Jazz on Nylon #4

Some wonderful music for your Friday listening pleasure!

It occurred to me a while back that if I was going to run a series called Jazz on Nylon, there were a few players who simply couldn’t be omitted. While the series so far has focused on guitarists who aren’t as well known, & while that may continue to be the focus going forward, I don’t want to simply overlook the handful of guitarists who’ve made a significant reputation for themselves in the jazz world while playing a classical guitar as their main instrument. Of course Charlie Byrd has to be high on that list,

Although Charlie Byrd began playing guitar as a boy on a regular steel string acoustic, he began studying classical guitar after being discharged from the army in 1945. In the 1950s he studied with Sophocles Pappas & then later with the great Andrés Segovia. Byrd’s first major engagement was a European tour with Woody Herman’s Herd in 1959—this version of the Herd also included Vince Guaraldi & Nate Adderly. Also around this same time Byrd began to develop an interest in Bossa Nova, & he & Stan Getz recorded the seminal Jazz Samba in 1962 for Verve Records. Byrd’s passion for Bossa Nova continued throughout his career, & you can hear him playing such classics as “Samba de Orfeu” & “Corcovado”on YouTube.

Unlike the other guitarists featured so far in this series, Byrd really didn’t work as a soloist. He collaborated with many notable players, including his work with Herb Ellis & Barney Kessel in Great Guitars. But his standard format was the trio, as in this video; & as in this video, his bass player was often his brother Joe Byrd.

“The Jitterbug Waltz” is a true jazz classic. Written by the great Fats Waller, who first recorded it on Hammond organ in 1942, the song was reportedly inspired by some piano exercises his son Maurice was studying. Waller is a giant in the jazz world. Although he was known for his comic persona & his novelty songs like “All That Meat & No Potatoes” & “Your Feet’s Too Big,” he was a masterful composer & a virtuoso both on piano & organ.

Byrd’s rendering of the song is just lovely—plenty of swing, as well as the great warmth & clarity of tone for which he is always noted. Hope you enjoy this beautiful music.

Image links to its source at


  1. Yowza. Thanks for introducing me to Mr. Byrd.

  2. I've always loved Charlie Byrd's work. Thanks for brightening up my Friday evening, John.


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