Jazz Appreciation Month Spotlight: Donald Byrd
Byrd would begin the 1980s at Elektra Records, working with producer Isaac Hayes and his 125th Street Band on albums like 1981’s Love Byrd. Byrd remained active through the decade, moving to Landmark Records following his Asylum/Electra tenure.
In the early 1990s, Donald Byrd embraced the Hip-Hop sound that had reignited interest in his catalog. Byrd was a flagship performer alongside Guru on his Jazzmatazz series, appearing on the Chrysalis/EMI-backed volumes 1 & 2, alongside the likes of Roy Ayers, Lonnie Liston Smith, and Chaka Khan. In addition to working with Guru, the 1990s Hip-Hop music of A Tribe Called Quest and Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth celebrated Byrd’s sounds.
In addition to his tenure at Howard, Byrd, who carried a PhD from Columbia University, would teach at Rutgers, North Carolina Central University, NYU, and Cornell, among numerous others. On February 4, 2013, Donald Byrd died in Teaneck, New Jersey. A musician in six decades, Byrd’s music and his impact (in Jazz and beyond) lives on.