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The bass player is the anchor of any combo, the one that everybody else in the band has to hear in order to know if they are heading in the right direction. But just like everything else in the jazz life, plucking out a steady pulse does not always translate into getting steady work. That is one of the reasons Joe Byrd gives thanks for his good fortune. Byrd spent 40 years playing bass alongside his brother, Charlie, a groundbreaking jazz guitarist and D.C. hometown hero. Charlie is gone, but Joe is still worrying the strings of the contrabass from his home near Annapolis. He just released the first disc under his own name, “Basically Blues,” has several engagements lined up in the area, and is also seeing decades-old recordings done alongside his brother resurface. Earlier this year, Concord Records issued a two-disc set of live performances by the Great Guitars — Charlie Byrd, Barney Kessel, and Herb Ellis — that have Joe on bass. One of the shows was at Charlie’s Georgetown, a joint named for Charlie (but not run by him) that lasted a few years under the Whitehurst Freeway on K Street. By the time Joe took a solo on “Opus One” on that August night in 1982, he’d already logged countless performances alongside his swinging brother, from Annapolis to Afghanistan. Under the auspices of the State Department, Charlie Byrd and dozens of other performers traveled to the far reaches of the globe, delivering musical diplomacy in 125 countries. In a recent phone conversation, Joe Byrd recalled the formative years in the District, before his brother became a star. Charlie’s base was the Showboat Lounge at Columbia Road and 18th Street, N.W., and Joe had an intermission act where he played guitar. Later, when bassist Keter Betts left Charlie’s band to play with Ella Fitzgerald, Joe got the bass gig and never let go. He also performed with traveling stars who boarded the Showboat, including the world-weary lyricist and pianist Mose Allison. “It just so happens that Mose and I sound an awful lot alike,” says Joe, who was raised in Chuckatuck, Va. “We’re both Southern boys who grew up with the blues.” Indeed, they share a vocal sound that one cannot pick up at Julliard. On “Basically Blues,” Joe lays his lazy vocals, just a cut more musical than his speaking voice, across tunes that contain some of the best wit and wisdom jazz and blues lyricists have mustered: Nat King Cole’s “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” Willie Dixon’s “Beer Drinkin’ Woman,” Duke Ellington’s “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me,” and Allison’s sharp “Ask Me Nice.” His main foil is guitarist Steve Abshire, a former member of the Navy Commodores jazz band who has the full blues and jazz vocabulary well within his grasp. On drums is Mike Shepherd. Says Byrd: “He spent a couple of years with Maynard Ferguson’s big band, so that ain’t too bad!” It’s a pleasant affair, though not as rich in delights as “Great Guitars Live.” Charlie Byrd studied under Andres Segovia and was among the first to bring bossa nova to the States. Ellis and Kessel are both veterans of the big band era, and it shows in their deft and lighthearted styles. Indeed, their take on the Benny Goodman flag-waver “Air Mail Special” from the first disc, recorded live at the Paul Masson Winery in California in 1980, and “When the Saints Go Marching In” from the D.C. set, are carousels of one-upmanship. The Great Guitars are no more. But Joe Byrd is busy this summer, thanks to the help of his wife and booking agent, Elana, who also happens to be an attorney with a focus on domestic law. On July 7, he brings his blues trio to Maryland’s Columbia Lakefront Festival, and returns with his Brazilian quintet on July 28. The trio hits the Ram’s Head in Annapolis on the 27th, and the Brazilian band is part of a tribute to Charlie Byrd slated for Reston Town Center Aug. 4. The years with Charlie, says Joe, “were very enjoyable. Forty straight years of employment. That’s a dream most bass players will never see.”

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