Jazz Appreciation Month Spotlight: Donald Byrd
By the time of the Lunar Landing, Donald Byrd had departed from the out of vogue Bebop and plugged in. Bringing in an electric piano on 1969’s Fancy Free, Donald was headed in a clear direction towards the Electric Jazz of the ‘70s. Along the way, Byrd closed the ‘60s with songs that diggers dug, in crafting a certain dusty quality for The Pharcyde (see below), Lords Of The Underground, and The Beatnuts.
Ten years removed from A New Perspective, Donald Byrd delivered Blue Note a hit in Black Byrd. The album was the trumpeter’s first union with writer/producer Larry Mizell and his horn-playing vocalist brother Fonce. The album was rooted in a spacey Funk that gave the Jazz imprint release a crossover appeal. The effects of opener “Flight Time” would later become part of the basis for the opening to Nas and DJ Premier’s “NY State Of Mind,” and subsequent sequels.
Immediately following the success of the ’73 release The Mizell Brothers and Byrd created The Blackbyrds, a group taking its name from the album. Byrd recruited students from his then-post at Howard University to join the side-project, off of Blue Note, and at the San Francisco-based Fantasy imprint. The group’s sophomore album, the Top 30-Flying Start featured the mainstream hit “Walkin’ In Rhythm,” while its 1975 follow-up included seminal Hip-Hop foundation staple, “Rock Creek Park.” That same year, Byrd furthered his Blue Note solo recordings, with #1 Billboard Jazz album, Places and Spaces. The LP included “Wind Parade,” the basis of Black Moon’s “Buck ‘Em Down,” and the regularly-recycled hard bassline in “(Fallin’ Like) Dominoes.”
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