GOOD MORNING P.O.U.!
I dedicate this week’s P.O.U. Sunday Jazz Brunch to jazz trumpeter extraordinaire, Donald Byrd who passed away on Feb. 4th.
RIP Mr. Byrd and Thank You for the music…
Donaldson Toussaint L’Ouverture Byrd II (December 9, 1932 – February 4, 2013) was an American jazz and rhythm and blues trumpeter. A sideman for many other jazz musicians of his generation, Byrd is best known as one of the only bebop jazz musicians who successfully pioneered the funk and soul genres while simultaneously remaining a jazz artist.
Byrd attended Cass Technical High School. He performed with Lionel Hampton before finishing high school. After playing in a military band during a term in the United States Air Force, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in music from Wayne State University and a master’s degree from Manhattan School of Music. While still at the Manhattan School, he joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, as replacement for Clifford Brown. In 1955, he recorded with Jackie McLean and Mal Waldron. After leaving the Jazz Messengers in 1956, he performed with many leading jazz musicians of the day, including John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk, and later Herbie Hancock. Byrd’s first regular group was a quintet that he co-led from 1958-61 with baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams, an ensemble whose hard-driving performances are captured “live” on At the Half Note Cafe. In June 1964, Byrd jammed with jazz legend Eric Dolphy in Paris just two weeks before Dolphy’s death from insulin shock.
In the 1970s, Byrd moved away from the hard-bop jazz idiom and began to record jazz fusion and rhythm and blues. He teamed up with the Mizell Brothers (producer-writers Larry and Fonce) for Black Byrd in 1973. It was highly successful and became Blue Note Records’ highest-ever selling album. The title track climbed to No. 19 on Billboard′s R&B chart and reached the Hot 100 pop chart, peaking at No. 88. The Mizell brothers’ follow-up albums for Byrd, Street Lady, Places and Spaces and Stepping into Tomorrow, were also big sellers, and have subsequently provided a rich source of samples for acid jazz artists such as Us3. Most of the material for the albums was written by Larry Mizell. In 1973, he created The Blackbyrds, a fusion group consisting of his best students. They scored several major hits including “Happy Music” (No. 3 R&B, No. 19 pop), “Walking In Rhythm” (No. 4 R&B, No. 6 pop) and “Rock Creek Park”.
During his tenure at North Carolina Central University during 1980s, he formed a group which included students from the college called, Donald Byrd & the 125th St NYC Band. They recorded the ‘Love Byrd’ album, this being one of Donald Byrd’s last highlights in his jazz/funk phase. It included the late Isaac Hayes on production and drums. The album had a couple dance grooves; notably the hit & garage classic “Love has come around”. Recorded on Elektra records and released as a single in September 1981 it became a big disco hit in the UK and reached #41 in the chart.
He taught at Rutgers University, the Hampton Institute, New York University, Howard University, Queens College, Oberlin College, Cornell University, North Carolina Central University and Delaware State University. In addition to his master’s from Manhattan School of Music, Byrd had two master’s degrees from Columbia University. He received a law degree in 1976, and his doctorate from Columbia University Teachers College in 1982.
Byrd lived in Teaneck, New Jersey until his death on February 4, 2013 at the age of 80.
“Lover Come Back To Me”
“The Cat Walk”