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Donald Byrd

Donald Byrd

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Over the course of a long career, trumpeter Donald Byrd made a startling stylistic journey from hard bop to jazz-funk fusion, but whatever mode he operated in, Byrd was always a top-tier musician. Byrd was born in Detroit, Michigan on December 9, 1932, and the precocious trumpeter was already working with the likes of Lionel Hampton while he was still in his teens. In the 1950s Byrd made the move to New York City; he became a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers from 1955-'56 as well as Hank Jones, Jackie McLean, Hank Mobley, Horace Silver, Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane, and countless others. Byrd began his solo recording career before he even left Detroit, and he released several albums as a leader in New York, but by the late '50s he had formed an alliance with baritone sax man Pepper Adams that led to some of his best bop recordings. At the tail end of the '60s, Byrd began to incorporate electric instruments and adopt a proto-fusion style full of funky grooves, recording Fancy Free in 1969 and getting further out on the follow-up, Electric Byrd. He adopted an even harder-hitting sound on subsequent albums, but it was 1973's Black Byrd that became not only Byrd's biggest success, but a...

Over the course of a long career, trumpeter Donald Byrd made a startling stylistic journey from hard bop to jazz-funk fusion, but whatever mode he operated in, Byrd was always a top-tier musician. Byrd was born in Detroit, Michigan on December 9, 1932, and the precocious trumpeter was already working with the likes of Lionel Hampton while he was still in his teens. In the 1950s Byrd made the move to New York City; he became a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers from 1955-'56 as well as Hank Jones, Jackie McLean, Hank Mobley, Horace Silver, Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane, and countless others. Byrd began his solo recording career before he even left Detroit, and he released several albums as a leader in New York, but by the late '50s he had formed an alliance with baritone sax man Pepper Adams that led to some of his best bop recordings. At the tail end of the '60s, Byrd began to incorporate electric instruments and adopt a proto-fusion style full of funky grooves, recording Fancy Free in 1969 and getting further out on the follow-up, Electric Byrd. He adopted an even harder-hitting sound on subsequent albums, but it was 1973's Black Byrd that became not only Byrd's biggest success, but a phenomenon unto itself. By sanding the more outré edges off his sound and replacing them with pop/R&B moves (including vocals), Byrd achieved a crossover success, landing the album on the pop and R&B charts. Though he kept recording, making increasingly pop-oriented albums throughout the '70s and '80s, Byrd also devoted much of his time to music education. He taught music at a number of top schools, and earned his PhD along the way. Byrd's latter-day albums found him moving back to his roots and adopting a more bop-informed approach. He passed away on February 4, 2013 in Dover, Delaware.

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CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Next Step, The (1996) Austin
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