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Donald Byrd: Electric Byrd

Jim Santella By

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This landmark recording from 1970 followed on the heels of Miles' "Bitch's Brew" and contained many of the same elements that Miles used in his innovative ventures; jazz moved away from the wah-wah trumpet and ushered in the wah-wah guitar. With a lineup including Mickey Roker on drums, Ron Carter on bass, Duke Pearson on electric piano, Wally Richardson on electric guitar, Bill Campbell on trombone and a reed section of Jerry Dodgion, Frank Foster, Lew Tabackin and Pepper Adams, Byrd combined a big band setting with specific soloist moods, using echoes, distant microphone settings, and changing tone colors.

"Estavanico" is based on a Latin tinge and features both the clear proud tone of trumpeter Byrd and dual flutes bobbing and weaving the melody above the big band sound. "Essence" changes the mood to one using a strolling bass line behind soloists who make obvious use of the echo feature. Airto's composition "Xibaba" features the composer on congas and percussion, the soothing and natural flute of Hermeto Pascoal, and introduces that sound that became rather popular in the `70s: the electric piano with congas and instrumental soloists in a groove. That R&B groove is further amplified on "The Dude," which features Foster and Dodgion ripping back-to-back solos on tenor and alto (respectively) followed by Campbell and Byrd.

Highlights include innovative solos from Tabackin on flute and tenor sax, tasteful wah-wah guitar work from Richardson, and of course Donald Byrd's powerful yet restrained trumpet work. The different moods exhibited offer the listener an opportunity to hear this ensemble from more than one perspective.


Title: Electric Byrd | Year Released: 1996 | Record Label: Blue Note Records


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