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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 ...



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