Donald Byrd & Booker Little, The Third World

Charles Farrell

By Charles Farrell

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Occasionally, jazz musicians playing standard, straight-ahead material — none of them reaching for the fences or trying to make a “statement” — can simply get together and all dig in hard for an entire session. That's the crux of what trumpeters Donald Byrd and Booker Little did in 1959 on this small gem. Perhaps the addition of pianist Mal Waldron, who adds focus to any project in which he participates, makes The Third World different from most of its contemporary blowing dates. But it might just as easily be the augmented rhythm section. Percussionists Armando Perazo and Willie Rodriguez both play with characteristic enthusiasm, matched by the indefatigable Philly Joe Jones on drums. This team, along with first-call bassist Paul Chambers, injects vitality to each track.

A small gem formed out of standard, straight-ahead material

Working extensively with both Max Roach and Eric Dolphy, Booker Little played at a consistently brilliant level throughout his tragically short twenty-three years of life, pushing the language of the trumpet mined by Clifford Brown (another great trumpeter who died prematurely) radically forward. The Third World may not be as adventurous as most of the recordings he did, but it is never less satisfying.

Donald Byrd, for his part, plays to the utmost of his capabilities throughout, undoubtedly spurred on by Little's excellence. His bright, optimistic tone serves as an effective foil for Little's more weighty one. This may well be the best playing Byrd has done on disc.