Over the course of his career, guitarist Barry Galbraith appeared on 594 recording sessions. Yet he made only one album as a featured leader—Guitar and the Wind. The album was recorded over three days in January 1958 for Decca. The fact that Galbraith didn't record more extensively as a featured soloist for Decca and other labels is unfortunate.
There are only two possible explanations for Galbraith's lack of spotlight time: Either he was too busy as an East Coast sideman (he was recording virtually every other day at the time) or he was introspective and more comfortable in a group setting. The answer, according to Hal McKusick, who knew Galbraith well, is both.
What makes Galbraith's lack of output notably disheartening is the exceptional quality of Guitar and the Wind. Galbraith's ability rested not in speed or technique—though he was capable of both. Instead, Galbraith was about extraordinary chord voicings and swinging harmony lines. His sound also was strong and large, with enormous confidence. Guitar and the Wind not only demonstrates this side of Galbraith but also features two superb orchestras behind him on the different recording dates.
The first and third sessions featured Urbie Green, Chauncey Welsch and Frank Rehak (trombones); Dick Hixson (bass trombone); Bobby Jaspar (flute and tenor sax); Eddie Costa (piano and vibes); Barry Galbraith (guitar); Milt Hinton (bass) and Osie Johnson (drums), with Billy Byers arranging.
The second session featured Bobby Jaspar (flute and tenor sax); Phil Bodner, Romeo Penque and Spencer Sinatra (reeds); Eddie Costa (piano and vibes); Barry Galbraith (guitar); Milt Hinton (bass) and Osie Johnson (drums), with Al Cohn arranging.
The "wind" on both sessions was Bobby Jaspar on flute, though Cohn's charts triple up on flutes on some tracks. The sound of Galbraith with flutes is positively gorgeous, particularly on I Like to Recognize the Tune. Other tracks feature superb trombone arranging by Byers [pictured], particularly on Anyplace I Hang My Hat.
Hal McKusick knew Galbraith well, both as a session-mate and as a member of Hal's own groups. Here's what Hal shared with me yesterday:
"You're assumption is correct: Barry was content to be busy doing all the dates he did. A wise a&r man would have been wise to capture his talent on many albums, in different settings, but sadly it was not to be.
"Barry was very organized with his time. He would go home after a day of recording, with a night gig added in some cases, and practice classical and other pieces in his basement. He was a truly dedicated musician, quiet, efficient and a great sight-reader. He also had the finest taste in phrasing, articulation and voicings.
"We spent many hours at his home (when he lived on Long Island) exploring songs and working out ensemble sounds with guitar and alto. That was the beginning of my recording career as a leader, utilizing what we had discovered together.
"Barry is one of the great unsung heroes in music, known and respected by those who are aware of his contribution and terrific musical ability."
If you dig Galbraith, you have 593 recording sessions to choose from. If you want to hear his brilliance up close, you have just Guitar and the Wind.
JazzWax tracks: Barry Galbraith's Guitar and the Wind is hidden at Amazon on a two-fer release from LoneHill called The Manhattan Jazz Septette, a group led by Oscar Pettiford and recorded in June 1956 that included Hal and Galbraith. You'll find the CD here.
If you're still craving pure Galbraith, you'll find him on three tracks on Guitar Soul (Status), recorded in May 1957 with Kenny Burrell on guitar, Leonard Gaskin on bass and Bobby Donaldson on drums. The three tracks are Billie's Bounce, Prelude to a Kiss and It Don't Mean a Thing. Remaining tracks feature other guitarists. Unfortunately, this album is rare and doesn't seem to have made its way onto CD yet.
JazzWax clip: Here's Barry Galbraith soloing on Love Is for the Very Young (also known as the theme to The Bad and the Beautiful), from Guitar and the Wind...