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Friday, 3 December, 1999, 11:17 GMT
Jazz legend Byrd dies
Charlie Byrd: Performed his last show in September

Jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd, renowned for fusing Latin, classical and jazz styles, has died of cancer at the age of 74.

His career spanned five decades, and he recorded over 100 albums - his most recent in September. He helped launch the bossa nova as an international phenomenon in 1963 by releasing Jazz Sambe with Stan Getz.

Born in Virginia, he learned guitar from his father - a mandolin player - and was inspired to study jazz while on military service in Paris in 1945.

He established himself as a figure on the jazz scene on the east coast of the US in the late 1940s, and in 1954 he travelled to Italy to study with Spanish classical guitarist Andres Segovia.

His music was absolutely unique. He played from his heart
Byrd Trio drummer Chuck Redd
Many of his performances were with the Charlie Byrd Trio, which featured his brother, Joe Byrd, on bass.

He also worked as a goodwill ambassador for the US government in South America, where he developed his passion for the bossa nova movement.

Byrd won a fight with bladder cancer in the 1970s, but contracted lung cancer in 1990.

More recently, he performed with the Washington Guitar Quintet, and played his last show on 18 September in his home city of Annapolis, Maryland.

His sister-in-law, Elena Byrd, said: "He was a cancer survivor for 20 years. Any time he could get on the stage, he got on the stage."

He continued to travel around the world, and sailed his 26-foot boat, called I'm Hip.

Byrd Trio drummer Chuck Redd said: "His music was absolutely unique. He was a completely honest and real musician, who never copied other others or pandered to people. He played from his heart."

Earlier this year he was honoured as a Knight of the Rio Branco by the Brazillian government.

He is survived by his wife, Rebecca Byrd, their two daughters, a granddaughter and two brothers.

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See also:
23 Aug 99 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Jamming in Prague
27 Apr 99 |  Duke Ellington
The centenary of a jazz legend

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