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Donald Byrd: A New Perspective

Jim Santella By

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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 23-year-old Herbie Hancock, this session includes saxophonist Hank Mobley, vibraphonist Donald Best, guitarist Kenny Burrell, bassist Butch Warren and drummer Lex Humphries. Frequently making use of a trumpet, tenor sax and vibes unison doubling, "Elijah" is an up-tempo number that features, among other things, some interesting and exciting piano work from Hancock. The slow, bluesy "Beast Of Burden" uses an interesting piano fill for the deliberate and soulful wordless vocals; alternately, the voices and vibes fill behind Byrd's trumpet solo in like manner. "The Black Disciple" features both Burrell and Hancock stretching out with stellar performances, and Mobley's tenor solo offers a fine example of his full tone and fluid technique. Pearson's compositions "Chant" and "Cristo Redentor" are perhaps the best remembered of the session, featuring Byrd's bold, clear, and deliberate trumpet melodies with the voices and piano adding a touch that showed the jazz world one more possibility among the many in improvised music.

| Record Label: Blue Note Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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