Donald Byrd passed away a few days ago.
I got to know Byrd through his funk tunes from the 70s like Rock Creek Park (with The Blackbyrds) and Falling Like Dominoes. You probably all know Walking in Rhythm which was a massive hit in 1975 both here and in the US. However Byrd first played jazz trumpet in the 50s when he joined Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, and played trumpet alongside many of the jazz greats such as John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Max Roach. He also played with a young Herbie Hancock in 1960.
From the 60s onwards he taught jazz and its history at universities in the US and The Blackbyrds was borne out of a group of such students at Howard University. It was the music he made with the Blackbyrds (and produced by brothers Larry and Fonce Mizell) which made him into a crossover star, and brought him commercial success – and the typical accompanying criticism from jazz journalists. He also co-headed a quintet with baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams and later on partnered with Isaac Hayes.
Byrd didn’t stop at educating others, though, he kept learning and gained a law degree and doctorate in teaching.
Donald Byrd, thank you for the music. Here are my highlights.