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Donald Byrd: Cookin' With Blue Note At Montreux

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Donald Byrd: Cookin' With Blue Note At Montreux
Almost fifty years after the event, Donald Byrd's 1973 performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival finally sees the light of day. Several other artists on Blue Note's roster had performances released—in more timely manner—from the same edition of Claude Nobs festival, including Ronnie Foster, Bobbi Humphrey, Bobby Hutcherson and Marlena Shaw. In no small part, thanks for this posthumous Byrd release is due to the French-born, London-based DJ and label owner Gilles Peterson, who contacted Blue Note regarding the whereabouts of the languishing tapes. Located, dusted down and remastered, this forty-five-minute recording finds Byrd fronting an energized ten-piece band interpreting mostly new material.

Like many of his contemporaries, Byrd had turned to electric jazz-fusion towards the end of the '60s, and this live set bears all the hallmarks of a hard bopper who had happily assimilated the r&b, soul and funk that was de rigueur at the time. Half of this Montreux band had been on Byrd's soul-filtered, jazz-funk album Black Byrd (Blue Note, 1973) recorded in April '72. The producing team Larry Mizell and Fonce Mizell had been key in helping shape the smooth, soulful sound of that album, scoring Byrd a commercial success and paving the way, in no small measure, for the '80s acid-jazz scene so staunchly championed by the aforementioned Peterson.

The Mizell brothers are both on the Montreux set, Fonce Mizell on trumpet and Larry Mizel on synthesizers. So too are the Blackbyrd members Kevin Toney on electric piano, guitarist Barney Perry, bustling drummer Keith Kilgo and tenor saxophonist & flautist Allan Barnes. All their contributions are telling, particular those from Barnes and Perry, who revel in the freedom largely denied them on Black Byrd. The band is rounded out by tenor and soprano saxophonist Nathan Davis—who lets rip on Stevie Wonder's "You Got It Bad Girl"—electric bassist Henry Franklin and percussionist Ray Armando. The latter's congas, bells, wind chimes and shakers are a near-constant presence, variously evoking the textures and rhythms of fusion champions of the era, Miles Davis, Weather Report and Santana.

Of the six tracks, only "Black Bird," with its Sun Ra Arkestra-esque chanting, had been recorded previously. Oddly, however, none of the other titles would appear on future Byrd albums, making this release of all the more interest to Byrd fans. The leader is in fine form, taking several splendid solos, one on the muscular jazz-funk burner "The East," and another fiery intervention, on the sprawling Afro-jazz jam "Kwame," being particularly notable. The ten-piece burns with the energy of the James Brown Band on the helter-skelter "Poco-Mania," a rousing adieu from a line-up which would not appear on record with Byrd again, more's the pity.

Track Listing

Black Byrd; You’ve Got It Bad Girl; The East; Introductions; Kwame; Poco-Mania.

Personnel

Donald Byrd: trumpet; Fonce Mizell: trumpet; Larry Mizell: synthesizer; Allan Curtis Barnes: saxophone; Nathan Davis: saxophone; Kevin Toney: piano; Barney Perry: guitar; Henry Franklin: bass; Keith Kilgo: drums; Ray Armando: percussion.

Album information

Title: Cookin' With Blue Note At Montreux | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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