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Donald Byrd: Slow Drag

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Donald ByrdSlow DragBlue Note2011 (1967) In 1967 trumpeter Donald Byrd was a busy guy, teaching or lecturing at no fewer than four universities. It's a wonder he had time to play, let alone record. Fortunately, he did find the time, and the resulting Slow Drag takes an honorable place in his catalog. The album features Byrd's working unit, fresh off a stint at New York's Five Spot Café. It's a solid lineup that delivers with a dollop of bar smoke and dirty grooves. But it's also a sophisticated album: ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Donald Byrd: Off To The Races

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Donald Byrd Off To The Races Blue Note Records 2006 (1959)

Detroit was producing a lot more than cars in the 1950s: the city was a breeding ground for an impressive number of hard bop giants. Two of the most dynamic instrumentalists to trek eastward from Motown to the Big Apple were trumpeter Donald Byrd and baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams, leader and featured sideman respectively on Off To The Races.

Off To The Races, Byrd's first recording for Blue Note as a leader and the first in a series of fruitful collaborations ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Donald Byrd: Royal Flush

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Donald Byrd Royal Flush Blue Note 2006

One of a handful of Rudy Van Gelder remasters released this past August, Royal Flush would be welcome if only because it's the recording debut of Herbie Hancock. Looking all of fourteen in the photo included with the accompanying booklet (he was 21 at the time), Hancock plays like a seasoned pro on what was, in fact, his actual “maiden voyage." Even apart from the pianist's brilliant playing, Royal Flush is a winning hand played by trumpeter Donald Byrd, arguably the best recording date under his leadership.

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Donald Byrd Quartet featuring Bobby Jaspar: Au Chat Qui Peche 1958

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Were you to ask trumpeter Donald Byrd what moment in his career he would most like to relive, it would not be surprising if he selected the period documented on this recording. It was the late summer of 1958, and Byrd and his quartet had settled in for an extended gig, including practically carte blanche musical freedom, at a Parisian Left Bank jazz cave called Au Chat Qui Peche. On most occasions the quartet was augmented by the Belgian tenor saxophonist-flutist Bobby Jaspar, who at the time was married to American expatriate singer Blossom Dearie.

Today Byrd is the lone ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Donald Byrd: Fuego

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The role played by Donald Byrd in the development of hard bop is often unfairly overlooked these days--as if the trumpeter's '70s forays into more commercial territory justifies expunging his earlier contributions from its history. Fuego, Byrd's third date for Blue Note, finds him at his very best, in the familiar company of altoist Jackie McLean, pianist Duke Pearson, bassist Doug Watkins and drummer Lex Humphries. Recorded in October 1959, the record reflects the contemporaneous influences of two of Byrd's earlier employers: Art Blakey and John Coltrane. The six Byrd compositions understandably lean primarily toward the former, Blue Note being ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Donald Byrd: Donald Byrd: Electric Byrd

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Considered by some to be trumpeter Donald Byrd's last worthwhile jazz recording, Electric Byrd is a high-flying relic from 1970. This album can be understood as Byrd's formidable response to the musical challenges set down by trumpet-rival Miles Davis with his epic Bitches Brew recordings from a year earlier. Clearly Miles is the ghost presence here, with distinct echoes of his sound permeating the vibe of this exploratory set. Byrd demonstrates on his three originals that he, too, was a force to be reckoned with. The supremely atmospheric “Estavanico" opens the album, inventively fusing together elements of funk, psychedelica, Brazilian ...

MUST HEAR REVIEW

Donald Byrd: Kofi

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An album of previously unreleased material taken from two 1969-1970 sessions which capture the immensely talented trumpeter Donald Byrd in a transitional moment of artistic brilliance. The first two tracks, “Kofi" and “Fufu," were both recorded during the 1969 session, and are the most original and imaginative compositions on the album. Rooted in the hypnotic African-infused rhythms of drummer Mickey Roker, bassist Ron Carter, and percussionists Airto and Dom Um Romao, these two tracks synthesize the modal, electric, hard bop, and funk strains of late 60s jazz. On “Kofi," Lew Tabackin's flute swirls freely above the thickly layered grooves and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Donald Byrd: Byrd in Hand (RVG Edition)

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Of the jazz trumpeters who blazed a trail during the 1950s and '60s, Donald Byrd has never really gotten his due. He came into his own at the same time as Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, Chet Baker, Kenny Dorham, etc. were on the scene, unjustly diverting some attention away from Byrd. Yet a listen to a small part of his recorded output reveals a trumpeter with a well-developed penchant for lyricism and who, over time, learned to use space as effectively in his improvisations as Miles himself.

Byrd In Hand, Byrd’s second album for Blue Note Records, features ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Lee Morgan, Donald Byrd, Hank Mobley: The Birth Of Hard Bop

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This 2-CD set, introducing the Savoy Jazz Rare Sessions series, contains the reissue of four 1956 Savoy albums: The Jazz Message Of Hank Mobley, Hard Bop, The Jazz Message Of Hank Mobley, Volume 2 and A-1: The Savoy Sessions. It includes alternate takes and previously unissued tracks that serve an important purpose. Here, “Cattin’," for example, is played at different tempos: Bird-like on the alternate take with different featured soloists. The version originally issued is looser and more representative of hard bop. “Space Flight," on the other hand, is virtually the same on both takes. Minor flaws in the recorded ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Donald Byrd & Pepper Adams: Motor City Scene

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A reissue of a session originally released in 1961, Motor City Scene is an excellent example of the wealth of talent in the Detroit area during the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Co-led by trumpeter Donald Byrd and baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams, the cast includes a veritable who’s who of jazzmen on their respective instruments: pianist Tommy Flanagan, guitarist Kenny Burrell, bassist Paul Chambers, and the drums of Louis Hayes.

The opening cut, Hoagy Carmichael’s ballad “Star Dust,” is music to get lost in. With Adams and Burrell laying out, we’re treated to Byrd’s majestic tone, reverence for the song’s melody, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Donald Byrd/Pepper Adams: The Complete Blue Note Donald Byrd/Pepper Adams Studio Sessions

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There was a time when Donald Byrd probably spent as much time out at Rudy Van Gelder's house in Hackensack recording sessions as he did in the clubs performing for live audiences. From the early part of the '50s on, Byrd was a busy man, appearing on scores of records for Savoy, Prestige, and Blue Note. And with youth on his side, Byrd was capable of delivering the goods day after day and night after night with a brassy tone and characteristic joie de vivre that distinguished him as one of the finest post-Clifford trumpeters.

Hitting the mark just after ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Donald Byrd & Pepper Adams: The Complete Blue Note Donald Byrd/Pepper Adams Sessions

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Donald Byrd and Pepper Adams began their jazz careers under similar circumstances at about the same time. Two years of military service, a musical education, and experience with established leaders prepared the trail. From Detroit, both found themselves in the center of New York’s late 1950s hard bop jazz scene. That fertile era produced some of our favorite recordings. It’s no surprise that Miles Davis was a big influence on Byrd’s development and that Harry Carney influenced Adams. The baritone saxophonist paid his dues with Stan Kenton, Maynard Ferguson, Chet Baker, and later with Mel Lewis. Trumpeter Byrd replaced Kenny ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Donald Byrd: Mustang!

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Trumpeter Donald Byrd made many worthwhile records during the sixties. Mustang, the first of four terrific Blue Note sessions Byrd made with ill-fated alto sax man Sonny Red between 1966 and 1967, is one of the great ones. Much of the success of this recording is due in no small part to Red's top-drawer participation. Pianist McCoy Tyner and under-valued tenor great Hank Mobley are exceptional throughout as well. All excel on the “Sidewinder" groove of the title cut, the “Watermelon Man" funk of the excellent “Dixie Lee," the familiar Blue Note bop of Byrd's “Fly Little Bird Fly" and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Donald Byrd: A New Perspective

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With his flair for innovation, Donald Byrd, in late 1963, put together a septet that was recorded with the Coleridge Perkinson Choir providing a capella Gospel support. Duke Pearson provided arrangements which carefully weave eight wordless voices in and out of the septet's blues-derived compositions. Byrd's father was a Methodist minister, so the trumpeter worked with Pearson at, as Byrd states in the liner notes, “approaching this tradition with respect and great pleasure." The recording, which was reissued on CD in 1988, is one of the first to be acknowledged in this manner.

Besides Byrd and a ...



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