Donaldson Toussaint L'Ouverture Byrd II (December 9, 1932 – February 4, 2013) was an American jazz and rhythm & blues trumpeter and vocalist. A sideman for many other jazz musicians of his generation, Byrd was known as one of the rare bebop jazz musicians who successfully explored funk and soul while remaining a jazz artist. As a bandleader, Byrd was an influence on the early career of Herbie Hancock.
Dr. Donald Byrd
|Birth name||Donaldson Toussaint L'Ouverture Byrd II|
|Born||December 9, 1932|
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
|Died||February 4, 2013 80) (aged|
|Genres||Jazz, funk, jazz-funk, soul, R&B|
|Instruments||Trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals|
|Labels||Blue Note, Prestige, Verve, Columbia, Transition|
|Associated acts||Pepper Adams, Gigi Gryce, Jackie McLean, Hank Mobley, Dexter Gordon, The Blackbyrds|
|Education||Wayne State University (B.A.)|
Manhattan School of Music
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 the successor to 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 further 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 rights. 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 $3,000 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.
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 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 three albums; Love Byrd and Words, Sounds, Colors and Shapes featured Isaac Hayes. "Love Has Come Around" on Love Byrd became a disco hit, reaching number No. 4 on Billboard's U.S. Dance Club Songs and 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, recording three albums for Orrin Keepnews' Landmark Records.
Byrd was a resident of Teaneck, New Jersey. He died on February 4, 2013 in Dover, Delaware, at age 80.
These are the year of recording (and release year where different).
- Byrd Jazz (Transition, 1955 – released 1956)
- Byrd's Eye View (Transition, 1955 – released 1956)
- Byrd's Word (Savoy, 1955 – released 1956)
- 2 Trumpets with Art Farmer (Prestige, 1956 – released 1957)
- The Young Bloods with Phil Woods (Prestige, 1956 – released 1957))
- Modern Jazz Perspective with Gigi Gryce (Columbia, 1957)
- Jazz Lab with Gigi Gryce (Columbia, 1957)
- New Formulas from the Jazz Lab with Gigi Gryce (Vik, 1957 – released 1982)
- Byrd Blows on Beacon Hill (Transition, 1956 – released 1957)
- At Newport with Gigi Gryce (Verve, 1957 – released 1958)
- Jazz Eyes (Regent, 1957)
- Jazz Lab with Gigi Gryce (Jubilee, 1957 – released 1958)
- Off to the Races (Blue Note, 1958 – released 1959)
- Byrd in Hand (Blue Note, 1959)
- At the Half Note Cafe (Blue Note, 1960)
- Byrd in Flight (Blue Note, 1960)
- Fuego (Blue Note, 1959 – released 1960)
- The Cat Walk (Blue Note, 1961 – released 1962)
- Royal Flush (Blue Note, 1961 – released 1962)
- Free Form (Blue Note, 1961 – released 1966)
- A New Perspective (Blue Note, 1963 – released 1964)
- I'm Tryin' to Get Home (Blue Note, 1964 – released 1965)
- Mustang (Blue Note, 1966 – released 1967)
- Blackjack (Blue Note, 1967 – released 1968)
- Slow Drag (Blue Note, 1967 – released 1968)
- The Creeper (Blue Note, 1967 – released 1981)
- Fancy Free (Blue Note, 1969 – released 1970)
- Electric Byrd (Blue Note, 1970)
- Kofi (Blue Note, 1971 – released 1995)
- Ethiopian Knights (Blue Note, 1971 – released 1972)
- Black Byrd (Blue Note, 1972 – released 1973)
- Street Lady (Blue Note, 1974)
- Stepping into Tomorrow (Blue Note, 1974 – released 1975)
- Places and Spaces (Blue Note, 1976)
- Caricatures (Blue Note, 1976)
- Thank You...For F.U.M.L. (Funking Up My Life) (Elektra, 1978)
- Chant (Blue Note, 1961 – released 1979)
- Donald Byrd and 125th Street, N.Y.C. (Elektra, 1979)
- Love Byrd (Elektra, 1981)
- Words, Sounds, Colors and Shapes (Elektra, 1982)
- Harlem Blues (Landmark, 1987 – released 1988)
- Getting Down to Business (Landmark, 1989 – released 1990)
- A City Called Heaven (Landmark, 1991)
With Ahmad Jamal
With Al Grey
- 1962: Snap Your Fingers (Argo)
With Art Blakey
- 1956 The Jazz Messengers (Columbia)
- 1956 Originally
- 1957 Art Blakey Big Band (Bethlehem)
- 1958 Holiday for Skins (Blue Note)
With Art Farmer
With Art Taylor
- 1957 Taylor's Wailers (Prestige)
'With Bunky Green
- My Babe (Vee-Jay, 1960 )
With Cal Tjader
- 1964 Soul Sauce (Verve)
With Cannonball Adderley
- 1955 Discoveries
With Chris Connor
- 1959 Ballads of the Sad Cafe
With Dexter Gordon
With Dizzy Reece
- 1958 Blues in Trinity (Blue Note)
With Doug Watkins
- 1956 Watkins at Large (Transition)
With Duke Pearson
With Elmo Hope
- 1956 Informal Jazz (Prestige, 1956)
With Ernie Wilkins
- 1955 Top Brass (Savoy)
With Eric Dolphy
- 1964 Naima
- 1964 Last Recordings / Unrealized Tapes
With Gene Ammons
- 1956 Jammin' with Gene (Prestige)
With Gene Harris
- 1977 Tone Tantrum
With George Wallington
- 1955 Live at the Bohemia (Progressive, 1955; Prestige, 1970)
- 1956 Jazz for the Carriage Trade (Prestige)
- 1957 The New York Scene (Prestige)
- 1957 Jazz at Hotchkiss (Savoy)
With Gigi Gryce
- 1957 Jazz Lab (Jubilee)
- 1957 Gigi Gryce and the Jazz Lab Quintet (Riverside)
- 1957 At Newport (Verve)
- 1957 Modern Jazz Perspective (Columbia)
- 1957 New Formulas from the Jazz Lab (Vik)
With Hank Jones
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 Herbie Hancock
- 1963 My Point of View (Blue Note)
With Horace Silver
With Jackie McLean
- 1955 Presenting... Jackie McLean (Ad Lib) (Jubilee 1958)
- 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 Jimmy Smith
- 1957 A Date with Jimmy Smith Volume One (Blue Note)
- 1957 A Date with Jimmy Smith Volume Two (Blue Note)
With Jimmy Heath
- 1963 Swamp Seed (Riverside)
With Jim Timmens
- 1958 Gilbert and Sullivan Revisited (Warner Bros.)
With John Coltrane
- 1958 Lush Life (Prestige)
- 1958 The Believer (Prestige)
- 1958 The Last Trane (Prestige)
- 1958 Black Pearls (Prestige)
With Johnny Griffin
- 1958 Johnny Griffin Sextet (Riverside)
With Kenny Burrell
With Kenny Clarke
With Kenny Drew
- 1957 This Is New (Riverside)
With Lou Donaldson
- 1959 Something New, Something Blue
With Michel Legrand
- 1958 Legrand Jazz
With Mundell Lowe
- 1959 TV Action Jazz!
With Oscar Pettiford
With Pepper Adams
- 1958 10 to 4 at the 5 Spot (Riverside)
With Paul Chambers
With Phil Woods
- 1956 Pairing Off (Prestige)
With Red Garland
With Sam Rivers
With Solomon Ilori
- 1964 African High Life
With Sonny Clark
With Sonny Rollins
With Stanley Turrentine
- 1967 A Bluish Bag
With Thelonious Monk
- 1959 The Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall (Riverside)
With Walter Davis Jr.
- 1959 Davis Cup (Blue Note)
With Wes Montgomery
- 1965 Goin' Out of My Head
- "Donald Byrd obituary". The Guardian. February 12, 2013. Retrieved January 26, 2021.
- Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 209. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
- "Innovative jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd dies at 80". Townhall.com. February 12, 2013. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
- Tom Cotter, "The Watermelon Man and the Cobra", Road & Track magazine, August 2007
- Yardley, William (February 11, 2013). "Donald Byrd, Jazz Trumpeter, Dies at 80". The New York Times. p. A28.
- Huey, Steve. "Black Byrd (1972)". Bluenote.com. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
- "When a Byrd Flew to North Carolina Central University". www.ncarts.org. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
- "Donald Byrd". Billboard. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
- Dr. Donald Byrd Named Artist in Residence Archived July 28, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, DSU Press Release, September 4, 2009.
- Ginell, Richard S.. Donald Byrd: A City Called Heaven – Review at AllMusic. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
- "The State of Jazz: Meet 40 More Jersey Greats", The Star-Ledger, September 28, 2003, backed up by the Internet Archive as of September 27, 2008. Accessed September 15, 2017. "Donald Byrd – One of the masters of post-bop trumpet and a noted educator, Byrd lives in Teaneck."
- "Donald Byrd". Blue Note Records. Retrieved January 21, 2019.
- "Donald Byrd | Album Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved January 21, 2019.
- Donald Byrd at AllMusic
- Donald Byrd discography at Discogs
- Donald Byrd at IMDb
- Donald Byrd discography at jazzdisco.org
- Donald Byrd at newyorkjazzworkshop.com