Charlie Byrd, the favorite guitar player of many peers after more than 50 years at it, is looking forward to a "Byrd and Brass" concert with a veteran's know-how and a rookie's drive. Saturday at 8 p.m. he plays Christmas music with the Annapolis Brass Quintet, two things he enjoys dearly.
With his jazz trio of brother Joe Byrd on bass and drummer Chuck Redd, the legendary musician, now 65, joins forces with the Quintet at Friedberg Concert Hall, Peabody Institute. It's their 100th joint concert in five years, more or less, and their first Christmas concert (though they have recorded a Christmas "Byrd and Brass").
"I love playing with the Brass," Byrd said, "and have a personal fondness for brass. There's a purity of sound. The whole idea of brass and guitar is unusual. They are so apart dynamically, modern technology enters. I get miked and the writers soften the loud instruments." It works, critics have said for years.
"I like Christmas music as music, first of all. I also think there's nothing in music that unifies us as much as Christmas music. We can't agree on pop music, but once a year, something connects us all to the human race, Christmas music."
As soloists and ensemble members, Byrd, his Trio and the Quintet will play more than 30 Christmas selections including new Byrd arrangements. The Brass leads off with a Christmas medley, Byrd plays three tunes alone, his trio jumps in, the Brass plays alone, then with Byrd, and so on.
Quintet members (each with non-musical assignments) include rTC the two remaining founding players from 20 years ago, David Cran, trumpet (in charge of schedules and programming), and Robert Posten, bass trombone (treasurer and Annapolis series planner). Others are Wayne Wells, trombone (the van man); Robert Suggs, trumpet (records, travel arrangements) and Sharon Tiebert-Porter, horn (computer operator, programs).
Tiebert-Porter is the first woman on the Quintet, its newest and youngest member (31), and a delighted full-time player after Peabody Conservatory graduation and many concert jobs here and there.
The here and there is replaced by solid booking 18 months ahead. The group just returned from European and Southern tours, heads to the Midwest in January, does annual festivals in Baltimore, Annapolis and other Maryland spots.
The Quintet doubts it could play with any jazz group as it does with the Byrd Trio. "Charlie has such innate musicianship," said Cran, at 49 the oldest Brass. "His trio rehearses and rehearses. Many people in a long successful career don't try new things. Charlie does. Of course he brought the bossa nova here [with Stan Getz in their 1962 record]. He's patient with us when we do his music; we're patient with his classical music."
After 20 years, the quintet still practices twice daily, now in its new home in the basement at St. John's Huntingdon Episcopal Church, Greenmount Avenue and Old York Road. It will keep its Annapolis name and strong ties there, including an annual festival.
As they travel, the country's first full-time brass chamber quintet has to explain less and less it's not a Navy group or a Greek ensemble ("An Napolis"). "They were like a plunge into cold water," said Munich's "Suddeutsche Zeitung" Nov. 7 after a "wonderful" concert. "Others should follow their example. But wait. Only the Americans can do it."
Tickets for Saturday's concert are $15. A self-tour of Peabody Library begins at 7:30 p.m. Lecture by Walter Schamu at 8 at Friedberg Hall. Call 235-4302.