From “Free Form” : 1961 : Blue Note (Buy)
It was officially announced yesterday that the legendary jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd passed away on February 4th at the age of 80. Beginning in the mid-1950′s Byrd became one of the major figures in jazz in the style that would come to be called hard bop. Before long he was one of the primary trumpet players for the Blue Note label on both his own classic early albums as a leader and as a sideman on many other important Blue Note recordings.
LISTEN: Donald Byrd – Witch Hunt
From “Street Lady” : 1973 : Blue Note (Buy)
Byrd’s most enduring musical output will surely be his albums for Blue Note starting in 1972 and running though 1976. This is the period where he produced the landmark recordings “Black Byrd” (1972), “Street Lady” (1973), “Steppin’ Into Tomorrow” (1974), “Places and Spaces” (1975) and “Caricatures” (1976). Byrd, along with the production team The Mizell Brothers, virtually created a new genre of music (one that to this day is still copied but never matched) that combined jazz, funk and R&B into a commercial sound that was still rooted in the improvisational style that was at the core of jazz music. Almost universally loathed by critics and purists when the albums were released, they have come to be appreciated as the groundbreaking work that they were by both the hip-hop generation and a new more accepting jazz audience.
From “Places And Spaces” : 1975 : Blue Note (Buy)
It is truly a loss of not just a phenomenal jazz talent and forward-thinking musician, but also a great teacher and a man who fought hard throughout his lifetime to ensure that jazz music and it’s history would become an integral part of the curriculum for those who studied music at the college level. His legacy is one that will not be easily forgotten.