We say farewell to legendary jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd

Donald Byrd (1932-2013)

Byrd’s jazz legacy stretches from hard bop to funk to fusion

Trumpeter and jazzman Donald Byrd died yesterday and in his death we lost another piece of the jazz-funk pie. From his early work with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the 50’s to joining forces with the Mizell Brothers on his groundbreaking 1973 Street Lady album eventually forming the Blackbyrds in the mid-70’s, his jazz legacy looms large, stretching from hard bop to funk to fusion. His role as bandleader on a successful string of quality Blue Note releases in the 1960s is not to be missed as well, with the gospel-influenced A New Perspective a standout.

However, I first found out about Byrd via the aforementioned Blackbyrds hits “Walking in Rhythm” and the b-boy classic (and nod to DC) “Rock Creek Park,” which is just an awesome record. Recorded in 1975 and sampled by everyone from Massive Attack to Nas, the sound, recording and the vibe of this record is amazing.
Something about the blend of great drums, spaced out synths, guitars and that funky flute make for a perfect b-boy jam.

I later became aware of the Blackbyrds’ “Mysterious Vibes,” which featured Donald Byrd’s trumpet playing; I love his rhythm and phrasing styles. While his earlier Blue Note work is wonderful, for me his later work really hits a certain note within my soul. Donald Byrd died at age 80 in New Jersey, leaving behind several decades worth of music, movement and be-bop poetry as only the Byrd could play.

Leave a Reply