Donald Byrd


Donaldson Toussaint L'Ouverture "Donald" Byrd II (December 9, 1932 - February 4, 2013) was an American jazz and rhythm & blues trumpeter. A sideman for many other jazz musicians of his generation, Byrd was best known as one of the only bebop jazz musicians who successfully pioneered the funk and soul genres while remaining a jazz artist. As a bandleader, Byrd is notable for his influence on the early career of Herbie Hancock.


Early life and career

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, Byrd 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 Gigi Gryce 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 to 1961 with baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams, an ensemble whose hard-driving performances are captured "live" on At the Half Note Cafe.

Byrd's 1961 LP Royal Flush marked the Blue Note debut of Hancock, who came to wider attention with Byrd's successful 1962 album Free Form, and these albums also featured the first recordings of Hancock's original compositions. Hancock has credited Byrd as a key influence in his early career, recounting that he took the young pianist "under his wings" when he was a struggling musician newly arrived in New York, even letting him sleep on a hide-a-bed in his Bronx apartment for several years

"He was the first person to let me be a permanent member of an internationally known band. He has always nurtured and encouraged young musicians. He's a born educator, it seems to be in his blood, and he really tried to encourage the development of creativity".

Hancock also recalled that Byrd helped him in many other ways: he encouraged Hancock to make his debut album for Blue Note, connected him with Mongo Santamaria, who turned Hancock's tune "Watermelon Man" into a chart-topping hit, and that Byrd also later urged him to accept Miles Davis' offer to join his quintet.

Hancock also credits Byrd with giving him one of the most important pieces of advice of his career - not to give away his publishing. When Blue Note offered Hancock the chance to record his first solo LP, label executives tried to convince him to relinquish his publishing in exchange for being able to record the album, but he stuck to Byrd's advice and refused, so the meeting came to an impasse. At this point, he stood up to leave and when it became clear that he was about to walk out, the executives relented and allowed him to retain his publishing. Thanks to Santamaria's subsequent hit cover version of "Watermelon Man", Hancock was soon receiving substantial royalties, and he used his first royalty check of $3000 to buy his first car, a 1963 Shelby Cobra (also recommended by Byrd) which Hancock still owns, and which is now the oldest production Cobra still in its original owner's hands.

In June 1964, Byrd played with Eric Dolphy in Paris just two weeks before Dolphy's death from insulin shock.

Electric Byrd

By 1969's Fancy Free, Byrd was moving 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 (1973) which was, for many years, Blue Note's best-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 1989, Byrd teamed with Robert Stewart (saxophonist) for a performance of the composition Fancy Free.

In 1973, he helped to establish and co-produce the Blackbyrds, a fusion group consisting of then-student musicians from Howard University, where Byrd taught in the music department and earned his J.D. in 1976. 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 the 1980s, he formed a group which included students from the college called the "125th St NYC Band". They recorded the Love Byrd album, which featured Isaac Hayes on drums. "Love Has Come Around" became a disco hit in the UK and reached No. 41 on the charts.

Beginning in the 1960s, Byrd (who eventually gained his PhD in music education from Teachers College, Columbia University in 1982) taught at a variety of postsecondary institutions, including Rutgers University, the Hampton Institute, New York University, Howard University, Queens College, Oberlin College, Cornell University, North Carolina Central University and Delaware State University. Byrd returned to somewhat straight-ahead jazz later in his career, releasing three albums for Orrin Keepnews' Landmark Records, and his final album Touchstone, a quintet.

Byrd died on February 4 2013 in Dover, Delaware. He was 80.


As leader

Transition Records
  • Byrd Jazz (1955) - also released as First Flight (Delmark)
  • Byrd's Eye View (1955)
  • Byrd Blows on Beacon Hill (1956)
  • The Transition Sessions (2002 compilation)
Prestige Records
  • 2 Trumpets (1956) - with Art Farmer
  • The Young Bloods (1956) - with Phil Woods
Verve Records
  • At Newport (1957) - with Gigi Gryce
  • Up with Donald Byrd (1964)
Columbia Records
  • Jazz Lab (1957) - with Gigi Gryce
  • Modern Jazz Perspective (1957) - with Gigi Gryce and Jackie Paris
Blue Note Records
  • Off to the Races (1959)
  • Byrd in Hand (1959)
  • Fuego (1959)
  • Byrd in Flight (1960)
  • At the Half Note Cafe (1960)
  • Chant (1961)
  • The Cat Walk (1961)
  • Royal Flush (1961)
  • Free Form (1961)
  • A New Perspective (1963)
  • I'm Tryin' to Get Home (1964)
  • Mustang (1966)
  • Blackjack (1967)
  • Slow Drag (1967)
  • The Creeper (1967)
  • Fancy Free (1969)
  • Electric Byrd (1969-70)
  • Kofi (1969)
  • Ethiopian Knights (1971)
  • Black Byrd (1973)
  • Street Lady (1973)
  • Stepping into Tomorrow (1974)
  • Places and Spaces (1975)
  • Caricatures (1976)
Elektra Records
  • Thank You... for F.U.M.L. (Funking Up My Life) (1978)
  • Donald Byrd And 125th Street, N.Y.C. (1979)
  • Love Byrd (1981)
  • Words, Sounds, Colors and Shapes (1983)
Landmark Records
  • Harlem Blues (1987)
  • Getting Down to Business (1989)
  • A City Called Heaven (1991)
Other labels
  • Byrd's Word (Savoy, 1955)
  • Jazz Eyes (Regent, 1957) - with John Jenkins
  • New Formulas from the Jazz Lab (Vik, 1957) with Gigi Gryce
  • Jazz in Camera (Sonorama, 1958) with Barney Wilen
  • Jazz Lab (Jubilee, 1958) with Gigi Gryce
  • Live Au Chat Qui Peche (Fresh Sound, 1958),
  • Jazz in Paris: Parisian Thoroughfare (Gitanes, 1958)
  • Jazz in Paris: Byrd in Paris (Gitanes, 1958)
  • Motor City Scene (Bethlehem, 1960)
  • Out of This World (Warwick, 1961)
  • September Afternoon (Discovery, 1982; rec. 1957) - with Clare Fischer and Strings
  • Touchstone (2000) Pepper Adams, Herbie Hancock, Teddy Charles, Jimmy Cobb

As sideman

With Hank Jones

  • 1955 Quartet-Quintet (Savoy)
  • 1955 Bluebird

With George Wallington

  • 1955 Live at the Bohemia (Progressive, 1955; Prestige, 1970)
  • 1956 Jazz for the Carriage Trade
  • 1957 The New York Scene (Prestige)
  • 1957 Jazz at Hotchkiss (Savoy)

With Kenny Clarke

  • 1955 Bohemia After Dark (Savoy)
  • 1956 Klook's Clique (Savoy)

With Hank Mobley

  • 1956 The Jazz Message of Hank Mobley (Prestige)
  • 1956 Mobley's Message (Prestige)
  • 1956 Jazz Message No. 2 (Savoy)
  • 1956 Hank Mobley Sextet (Blue Note)
  • 1957 Hank (Blue Note)
  • 1963 No Room for Squares (Blue Note)
  • 1963 Straight No Filter - released 1986 (Blue Note)
  • 1963 The Turnaround (Blue Note)
  • 1967 Far Away Lands (Blue Note)

With Art Blakey

  • 1956 The Jazz Messengers (Columbia)
  • 1956 Originally
  • 1957 Art Blakey Big Band (Bethlehem)
  • 1958 Holiday for Skins (Blue Note)

With Jackie McLean

  • 1956 Lights Out! (Prestige)
  • 1956 4, 5 and 6 (Prestige)
  • 1959 New Soil (Blue Note)
  • 1959 Jackie's Bag 3 tracks (Blue Note)
  • 1963 Vertigo - released 1980 (Blue Note)

With Phil Woods

  • 1956 Pairing Off (Prestige)
  • 1956 The Young Bloods (Prestige)

With Horace Silver

  • 1956 Silver's Blue (Epic)
  • 1956 6 Pieces of Silver (Blue Note)

With Kenny Burrell

  • 1956 All Night Long (Prestige)
  • 1957 All Day Long (Prestige)
  • 1957 2 Guitars (Prestige)

With Art Farmer

  • 1956 2 Trumpets (Prestige)
  • 1957 Art Farmer/Donald Byrd/Idrees Sulieman - Three Trumpets (Prestige)

With Gigi Gryce

  • 1957 Jazz Lab (Jubilee)
  • 1957 Gigi Gryce and the Jazz Lab Quintet (Riverside)
  • 1957 At Newport (Verve)
  • 1957 New Formulas from the Jazz Lab
  • 1957 Modern Jazz Perspective (Columbia)

With Jimmy Smith

  • 1957 A Date with Jimmy Smith Volume One (Blue Note)
  • 1957 A Date with Jimmy Smith Volume Two (Blue Note)

With Paul Chambers

  • 1956 Whims of Chambers (Blue Note)
  • 1957 Paul Chambers Quintet (Blue Note)

With Red Garland

  • 1957 All Mornin' Long (Prestige)
  • 1957 Soul Junction (Prestige)
  • 1957 High Pressure (Prestige)

With John Coltrane

  • 1958 Lush Life (Prestige)
  • 1958 The Believer (Prestige)
  • 1958 The Last Trane (Prestige)
  • 1958 Black Pearls (Prestige)

With Oscar Pettiford

  • 1955 Another One
  • 1957 Winner's Circle

With Lou Donaldson

  • 1957 Wailing with Lou (Blue Note)
  • 1957 Lou Takes Off (Blue Note)

With Sonny Clark

  • 1957 Sonny's Crib (Blue Note)
  • 1959 My Conception (Blue Note)

With others

  • 1955 Cannonball Adderley - Discoveries
  • 1955 Ernie Wilkins - Top Brass (Savoy)
  • 1956 Rita Reys - The Cool Voice of Rita Reys
  • 1956 Elmo Hope - Informal Jazz (Prestige, 1956)
  • 1956 Gene Ammons - Jammin' with Gene (Prestige)
  • 1956 Doug Watkins - Watkins at Large (Transition)
  • 1956 Sonny Rollins - Sonny Rollins, Vol. 1 (Blue Note)
  • 1957 Art Taylor - Taylor's Wailers (Prestige)
  • 1957 Kenny Drew - This Is New (Riverside)
  • 1957 John Jenkins - Jazz Eyes (Savoy)
  • 1958 Johnny Griffin - Johnny Griffin Sextet (Riverside)
  • 1958 Pepper Adams - 10 to 4 at the 5 Spot (Riverside)
  • 1958 Michel Legrand - Legrand Jazz
  • 1958 Dizzy Reece - Blues in Trinity (Blue Note)
  • 1958 Jim Timmens - Gilbert and Sullivan Revisited
  • 1959 Mundell Lowe - TV Action Jazz!
  • 1959 Thelonious Monk - The Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall (Riverside)
  • 1959 Chris Connor - Ballads of the Sad Cafe
  • 1959 Manny Albam/Teo Macero - Something New, Something Blue
  • 1959 Walter Davis Jr. - Davis Cup (Blue Note)
  • 1962 Duke Pearson - Hush! (Jazztime)
  • 1962: Al Grey - Snap Your Fingers (Argo)
  • 1963 Jimmy Heath - Swamp Seed (Riverside)
  • 1963 Herbie Hancock - My Point of View (Blue Note)
  • 1964 Eric Dolphy - Naima
  • 1964 Eric Dolphy - Last Recordings / Unrealized Tapes
  • 1964 Dexter Gordon - One Flight Up (Blue Note)
  • 1964 Cal Tjader - Soul Sauce (Verve)
  • 1964 Solomon Ilori - African High Life
  • 1964 Duke Pearson - Wahoo! (Blue Note)
  • 1965 Dexter Gordon - Ladybird (SteepleChase)
  • 1965 Wes Montgomery - Goin' Out of My Head
  • 1967 Stanley Turrentine - A Bluish Bag
  • 1967 Sam Rivers - Dimensions & Extensions
  • 1977 Gene Harris - Tone Tantrum
  • 1978 Sonny Rollins - Don't Stop the Carnival (Milestone)
  • 1993 Guru - Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1
  • 1995 Guru - Guru's Jazzmatazz, Vol. 2: The New Reality
  • 1995 Ahmad Jamal - Big Byrd: The Essence Part 2


External links

  • Donald Byrd at AllMusic
  • Donald Byrd discography at Discogs
  • Donald Byrd on Internet Movie Database
  • Donald Byrd discography at
  • Donald Byrd at
  • Donald Byrd at Find a Grave
Source : Wikipedia

Top Tracks

Think Twice 1

Think Twice

Black Byrd 2

Black Byrd

Wind Parade 3

Wind Parade

Cristo Redentor 4

Cristo Redentor

Places and Spaces 5

Places and Spaces

(Fallin' Like) Dominoes 6

(Fallin' Like) Dominoes

Love Has Come Around 7

Love Has Come Around

Street Lady 8

Street Lady

Elijah 9


You And Music 10

You And Music

Top Albums

The Best Of Donald Byrd
The Best Of Donald Byrd
Places and Spaces
Places and Spaces
Black Byrd
Black Byrd


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