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Donald Byrd: Donald Byrd Live: Cookin' With Blue Note at Montreux

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Donald Byrd: Donald Byrd Live: Cookin' With Blue Note at Montreux
What a treat it must have been in 1973 to attend the Montreux Jazz Festival: the featured artists that year included Dexter Gordon, McCoy Tyner, Chico Hamilton, Sam Rivers, Bobbi Humphrey, Dr John, Marlena Shaw, Bobby Hutcherson... and Donald Byrd with his Tentet, whose July 5 performance is captured on this album.

It was also the year of Herbie Hancock's Headhunters (Columbia Records) album, not to mention several Blaxploitation movie soundtracks, including J.J. Johnson's for Cleopatra Jones and James Brown's for Black Caesar. At the time, Byrd was head of the black music department at Howard University in Washington, DC. He thought highly enough of his students to include several of them in the Tentet, and to record with them: pianist Kevin Toney, guitarist Barney Perry, drummer Keith Killgo, and saxophonist/flutist Allan Barnes had all appeared on Byrd's best-selling Black Byrd (1973) album for Blue Note. Its producers, the brothers Fonce Mizell (trumpet) and Larry Mizell (synthesizer), were also members of the Tentet, along with tenor saxophonist Nathan Davis.

Byrd subsequently drew the membership of his funk-soul outfit The Blackbyrds from his Howard students. So far, so good. But after the Montreux gig—inexplicably —Blue Note shelved the recordings. It was not until Byrd died in 2013 that the label received an email from British jazz DJ Gilles Peterson, who had introduced his young UK club audiences to the dance possibilities of Byrd's music during the '80s. Peterson was sure the gig had been recorded, because all the Blue Note artists at Montreux that year were. He wanted to know what had happened to the Byrd tapes. It is not at all clear why it has since taken Blue Note nearly a decade to release them, but hey—we should be glad they finally have.

Beginning with Larry Mizell's Blaxploitation-style "Black Byrd" (the only representative of the eponymous album), Byrd plants his funky flag from the outset, the music dominated by Perry's wah-wah guitar, insistent electric bass from Henry Franklin, and some wailing tenor saxophone. Stevie Wonder's "You've Got It Bad, Girl" is next, a more spacious, impressionistic outing featuring Byrd's flugelhorn, while "The East" is an extended one-chord riff'n'rhythm workout. "Kwame" (another version of which is to be found on Byrd's Live at the Jazz Workshop, Boston [Echoes, 2014]), rather outstays its welcome, with its seemingly endless five-note riff, while "Poco-Mania" is a frantic hunk of burnin' funk. Exhilarating.

Track Listing

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

Personnel

Donald Byrd
trumpet
Fonce Mizell
trumpet
Allan Barnes
saxophone, tenor
Nathan Davis
saxophone
Larry Mizell
synthesizer
Ray Armando
percussion
Additional Instrumentation

Donald Byrd: flugelhorn, vocals; Fonce Mizell: vocals; Keith Killgo: vocals.

Album information

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


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