Winston Byrd - Once Upon a Time Called Right Now

Winston Byrd: trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone; Mahesh Balasooriya: piano; James Santangelo: piano; David Sampson: guitar; Julian Coryell: guitar; Steve Graeber: tenor saxophone; Mark Zier: keyboards; George Rabbai: trumpet, vocals; Nick Rolfe: keyboards, synth; Mike Boone: bass; Mychael Lomas: bass; Donzell Davis: drums; Gene Lake: drums, etc.


Winston Byrd is a versatile trumpeter who developed his own language while playing on the road in small and big bands. Despite the past collaborations with David Murray and Oliver Lake, his musical instincts are not oriented to the styles of those two. In Once Upon a Time Called Right Now, he rather blends straight-ahead and traditional jazz, hard bop, soul, and funk in considerable amounts, joining the influences of Dizzy Gillespie and Arturo Sandoval, and the jazz fusion of Larry Coryell and Blood, Sweat & Tears, with whom he played before.

Ornette Coleman’s “Ramblin” is a thrilling festivity that oozes wha-wha funk and bracing sound effects from every pore. It ends up with an unabashed collective improvisation and bass solo.

Retrieved from the musical Evita and arranged by Joel Martin, “On This Night Of A Thousand Stars”, a composition by Andrew Lloyd Weber, is an excellent showcase for Byrd’s virtuosity. The interesting treatment this song was subjected to, includes multiple changes in pace and groove, and also features the crisp rumbles of Steve Pemberton on drums.

An electrifying version of Frank Loesser’s “Brotherhood of Man”, where the bandleader has the company of George Rabbai on trumpet and James Santangelo on piano, makes us jump, while Eric Otis’s “Grandma Jo’s House”, transforming a 3/4 into a 4/4, cools the temperature down with its moderate swing.

Anticipating Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo A La Turk”, in which the pianist Mahesh Balasooriya lets out a mix of classical and jazz temperaments, we have the crossover jazz of “Borrowed Time”.

In “Anne Rising”, an illuminated ballad, Byrd embarks on a duet with the pianist Steve Rowlins. He accelerates the pace in “Mumbles”, a provocative bebop blues composed by Clark Terry, where he scats with Rabbai. The tune culminates with Byrd saying: ‘love ya grandpa Clark!’.

The following couple of tunes are the product of the collaboration between Byrd and his right hand, Giovanni Washington-Wright, who besides composing, also produced, arranged, and orchestrated in this recording. “Times”, the first original of the recording, is dominated by the eloquent guitar by Julian Coryell who sounds pretty much like Gary Moore. The second and last, is “Brown Eyes”, a smooth funk that invites us to a deep breath while relaxing to the cool sounds of the band. 

Winston Byrd’s third record will cheer you up with its moods, grooves, and gracious amplitudes. From the arrangements to the interplay, the quality and consistency of the whole are guaranteed by the participants’ synergies and dynamics.

         Grade  A-

         Grade A-

Label: Ropeadope, 2016
Favorite Tracks:
01 – Ramblin ► 03 – Brotherhood of Man ► 10 – Brown Eyes