Friday, February 8, 2013

Donald Byrd, 1932-2013

After a few days of speculation, I was sad to hear that the rumors were true and jazz great Donald Byrd had passed away this past Monday at the age of 80. The trumpeter originally made his mark in the jazz world as a rising heavy-weight within the hard-bop scene during the fifties and sixties, getting his start playing in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and shortly thereafter performing and recording with other jazz legends including John Coltrane, Jackie Maclean, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk, and Pepper Adams to name just a few. During this period, Byrd released a number of classic records including Fuego, Byrd in Flight, At the Half Note Cafe, Free Form, A New Perspective and many others.

During the late sixties and seventies, the trumpeter moved away from the hard-bop sound and delved into fusion and soul-jazz, hooking up with legendary jazz-funk production tag-team the Mizell brothers (Larry & Fonce Mizell) to release some of the best recordings of that sub-genre including Electric Byrd, Ethiopian Knights, Street Lady, Places and Spaces, Black Byrd (which became the biggest seller in Blue Note history) and more. Some of his notable groundbreaking gems from that era include "Lansana's Priestess", "(Fallin' Like) Dominoes", "Black Byrd", "Think Twice" and "Love Has Come Around".

Overall, the trumpeter/composer has not only left his mark on jazz, but on music in general. From his hailed days on the hard-bop scene, to shifting course and becoming one of the most notable pioneering musicians of the seventies soul-jazz movement, Donald Byrd is definitely one of legendary status and his contributions to music are absolutely monumental on so many levels. He will certainly be missed.

Rest in peace, Donald Byrd.

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