Thursday, 7 February 2013

RIP - Donald Byrd

You know I resisted. I don't like writing these RIP posts and Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner, lead singer of the Ohio players passed away. I left it to others to sing his deserved praises. Then, earlier this week, Cecil Womack (One half of Womack & Womack, brother of Bobby, writer of Teddy's great "Love T.K.O") passed away. I succumbed slightly and tweeted the bad news.

But then, at the age of 80, One of my gateways into Jazz passes away. Donald Byrd. I can't let this one go silently.

An esteemed trumpeter, Byrd  joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers at a young age, going on to perform with many leading jazz musicians of the day, including John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Thelonius Monk, and later Herbie Hancock

But my relationship to Byrd is rooted more in his ’70s Blue Note recordings, especially when he hooked up with the Mizell Brothers on production. 

He teamed up with producer-writers Larry and Fonce for Black Byrd in 1973. It became Blue Note Records' highest-ever selling album. The Mizell brothers' follow-up albums for Byrd, Street LadyPlaces and Spaces and Stepping into Tomorrow, were also big sellers, and have subsequently provided a rich source of samples for many Hip Hop tracks. Most of the material for the albums were 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", "Walking In Rhythm", and "Rock Creek Park".

Although Donald continued his musical career thereafter, which also included teaching, it's his 70's period music that turned me onto jazz. A mixture of jazz, funk and soul, I'll be forever indebted to Donald and the Mizell brothers for expanding my musical horizons with such seminal works.

Below are a few of the classics Donald leaves for us. R.I.P Mr Byrd.



Grizz has re-uploaded his Donald Byrd Artist mix. Get it here: Donald Byrd - Artist mix

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