The Eric Byrd Trio utilizes their keen sensibilities to harmonize traditional jazz modalities with improvised vamps on their latest CD, Saints Are Still Marching. A compilation of standards and original tunes, the recording overflows with fluid lines and melodic swells, which have the effect of delighting the aural faculties.
Eric Byrd’s bluesy vocals straddle the funky R&B grooves of “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me,” as the nimble chimes of his piano playing infuse an interval of bebop-tinged improvisations. The lounging rhythm of “Calvary” supports Byrd’s vocal musings, emoting sadness in the lyrics: “Can you hear him / Calling his father / Can you hear him / Hear him calling his father / Can you hear him / Calling his father / Well surely he died / On Calvary.”
“Blessed Assurance” displays numerous middle-of-the-road aspects embodied in the shimmering tones of Byrd’s keys and the wispy wails of the horn, which are all characteristic of the jazz-pop spectrum. “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” is a fusion of gospel and roots blues, illustrating a porch-folk mixture. It’s a sing-along tune that one can imagine at a social gathering, sung on a front porch and eliciting cheerful foot stomps and hand-clapping from its contributors.
“There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit” is shaped with a traditional jazz modality which is shown in the soft bowing of Bhagwan Khalsa’s bass strings and the light sprinkles of Byrd’s keys. The torchlight ambience of “When the Saints Go Marching In” switches to a celebratory vibrancy in “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho,” with a dancing rhythmic beat in the bopping bass, vaulting drums, and flapping keys. The horns accentuate the party atmosphere with a Klezmer accent in their toots.
The trio’s body of work targets mainstream jazz idioms and a contemporary zest to plot their own melodic improvisations, coordinating their verses into a harmonious flow. Their CD displays the trio’s simpatico nature.
Eric Byrd – piano and vocals, Bhagwan Khalsa – acoustic bass, Alphonso Young, Jr. – drums, Terell Stafford – trumpet, and Tim Warfield – saxophone