Donald Byrd


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In the aftermath of Clifford Browns tragic death in 1956, many Jazz observers spent fruitless hours looking for likely successors, just as they had done when Charlie Parker had died the previous year. Donald Byrd was 24 years old and the most likely candidate. 
Born on Dec. 9, 1932 in Detroit, Byrd studied trumpet and composition and graduated from Wayne State University in 1954. He arrived in New York in 1955 to complete an MA at the Manhattan School of Music and his elegant musical imagination and his beautiful tone quickly brought him to the attention of the established New York Jazz scene and record companies. Amongst others he worked with Sonny Rollins, Max Roach, Jackie McLean and Thelonious Monk. His big break came in 1956 when he briefly joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers where he was the successor of Clifford Brown and Kenny Dorham and the predecessor to Lee Morgan. By 1958 Byrd was co-leading a group with Pepper Adams, which lasted until 1961 and made many fine recordings. In 1959, Byrd discovered Herbie Hancock in Chicago and recorded a number impressive dates for Columbia and Blue Note in the '60s, including
Free Form and A New Perspective. 
In the early 60s Byrd did groundbreaking work in the education field, introducing Jazz courses, which were until then virtually unknown at many US Universities and Conservatories. He also pursued his education as a composer, which took him to Europe where, in 1963, he completed a course with the classical teacher and composer Nadia Boulanger. Gradually Byrd became one of the most respected authorities on American music studies teaching at some of the USAs most important seats of learning and in 1982, he received his doctorate from Columbia Teachers College. 

In the 70s Byrd tasted commercial success when he helped launch the jazz/funk era with his seminal albums,
Black Byrd, Street Lady and Places and Spaces. Byrd created and produced The Blackbyrds, a combo composed of musicians he taught at Howard University in the early '70s and who took the formula further to chart success. Byrd would repeat that formula with N.C.C.U from North Carolina Central University. After several funk forays in the early '80s on Elektra records, Byrd suffered a stroke but rehabilitated himself to record a few straight Jazz projects for the Landmark label.  In the late 80s Byrd had reverted to his hard-bop style of the late 50s.
Recommended recordings
Black Byrd  Blue Note
Electric Byrd Blue Note 
All Night Long (with Kenny Burrell) OJC
Byrd in Flight (with Yusef Lateef)
Blue Note
A New Perspective Blue Note
Places and Spaces Blue Note
The Best of Blue Note 
Fuego Blue Note 
All Day Long (with Kenny Burrell) OJC 
The Young Bloods (with Phil Woods) OJC 
Steppin' into Tomorrow Blue Note
Blackjack Blue Note
His Majesty King Funk Mercury 
Landmarks Jazz 32 Records 
Free Form Blue Note 
Two Trumpets (with Art Farmer) Prestige
Ethiopian Knights Blue Note
Touchstone Starburst
Jazz Lab / Modern Jazz Perspective Jubilee
Street lady Blue Note 
Fancy Free Blue Note 
Three Trumpets OJC 
Kofi Blue Note
Jazz at Hotchkiss Savoy 
Birds Word Savoy
The Third World Collectables 
First Flight Delmark 
Out of this World (with Pepper Adams) Collectables 
Cat Walk Blue Note
Off to the Races Blue Note
The Connection (w. Jackie McLean) Blue Note
Best Contemporary Jazz Trumpet Players
Dave Douglas
Roy Hargrove
Nicholas Payton
Terence Blanchard
Randy Brecker
Wallace Roney

Wynton Marsalis