Donald Byrd

I recall reading a thread written by a young man who came into possession of a large collection of Donald Byrd records under very sad circumstances, his father had passed.

Although he was sad, he shared with us how incredible this new music was that he had inherited. He renewed my enthusiasm for Donald Byrd. Me and Donald go back a long way, all the way back to my beginning as a jazz fan. I consider him one of the "giants of jazz", and I bet even the Rok will agree on that.

True jazz giants continually evolve, and Donald's evolution is well established in my collection. He began with "hard bop", and next was "A New Perspective/ Donald Byrd band and voices", this was a big hit at that time. Although I liked every cut on that LP, "Christo Redentor" was my favorite.

Donald Byrd & the Blackbirds was his next stage of evolution. This time he featured a vocal group called "The Blackbirds" with his band. At this stage of his evolution, many of his long time fans revolted, "How dare he ruin pure jazz with a vocal group". I was one of them. After I expressed my indignation by selling the LP I had just purchased, I came around to liking it and couldn't find a new copy, but I'm human and that's the way it goes.

This is my list of samplers for Byrd's various stages of evolution that can be found on "youtube". "Fuego" is not only my example of Donald Byrd's "hard bop", it is the personification of "hard bop". "Byrd In Hand" featuring Pepper Adams on baritone sax is another favorite of mine. I especially like the cut "Here Am I", Pepper Adams really cooks on that baritone. While Gerry Mulligan is very well known, and considered by many to be the best jazz baritone, Pepper Adams also ranks very high in my book. "Street Lady" by Byrd was an album I wore out. "Donald Byrd & the Blackbirds" was the LP I didn't like initially, sold it, and then couldn't find a new copy when I decided it belonged in my collection.

Just as a food critic must sample many dishes to determine which one's he thinks are best, an audiophile has to sample many records and CD's to determine which one's belong in his collection. Maybe after sampling, you will determine some of this music belongs in your collection.

Enjoy the music.
Odd, but as much as I greatly like him when accompanying other bands, I don't like any of his material as leader. I enjoy his sound and solos in other bands, but not his lead.
I only have 'Harlem Blues' on CD. I am sure I have other stuff on LP. 'Thank You for F..U...M...L' I know I have that on LP. But since I am out of the vinyl business, maybe my children may 'discover' him one day.

I am listening to Harlem Blues now. Very good. He is playing Flugelhorn. I have always thought that was a better choice than trumpet for much of Jazz. Armstrong excepted.

Jazz Giant? we will have to agree to have different lists. Sort of like college football rankings. Currently I have Armstrong and Ellington for my top two, in any order. They are the slam dunks. Additions are open to discussion. Should the girl singers be included?
Thanks for adding music to this site once again.

This is the first time I heard "Harlem Blues". I will definitely add it to my collection. I don't blame you for being out of the vinyl business, it's quite expensive when you're talking about better than CD.

I think the term "jazz giant" between the two of us is a matter of semantics, or maybe we could have more than one list.

Donald Byrd has put out such a wide range of fantastic jazz, that it's almost impossible to say, "I like jazz, but I don't care for Donald Byrd". When I see a statement like that, I know that it's because they haven't heard everything that Byrd's put out.

The records I suggested by Byrd represent different stages of his career, sample them and tell me what you think.

Rok2id, your question "Should we include the girl singers", just soaked in. Absolutely!

Nina Simone was forced to become a singer. She was playing piano at a lounge to pay for her education as a classical pianist, when the owner told her to sing. The rest is history.

That chick can really bang on the keys. Her early albums always included a couple of instrumentals. She has a style minutely reminiscent of Bud Powell, but it's uniquely "Nina Simone" one of a kind style. Sometime I single out all of her instrumentals, and just put them on my play-list.

Back to "Donald Byrd", check "Here Am I" and tell me what you think about Pepper Adams on Baritone sax?
I like Byrd`s playing a lot, but from his generation I like Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan more. I find their improvising more interesting and creative.Hey, they all can play.Pepper Adams is a first rate player, one of my favorites.

Jazz Giants, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk for starters along with Rok2id`s two choices.
I love to see this thread about Donald Byrd. I love Donald Bryd. He is around my beginnings as a jazz lover when I started listening to WJZZ Detroit's jazz radio back in the 70's and early 80's. As Orpheus said, he has a lot of very different music contributions to "Jazz." As far as his days with the Blackbyrds, you must hear "Places and Spaces." to hear Donald Byrd and the Blackbyrds at their best and also "Harlem River Drive." I have heard some of his work as a sideman. Because of this thread, I will definitely pursue some of the titles mentioned here that I have not heard. Thank you!! Hi Orpheus10. It's been a while. Glad to see your post.

Foster_9, after your welcome, this is like being back among old friends who are all "jazz aficionado's".

While I know a lot about jazz, I learn a lot every time I post. Now that we have "youtube", it's unnecessary to buy the record or CD before you know whether or not you like it.

The music from "Places and Spaces", as well as "Harlem River Drive", was when Donald was in a "funky, street groove" as opposed to a "deep in the jazz pocket groove". Donald Byrd covered all the grooves when it came to soulful music.

It feels good to be back, and I always look forward to your posts.

Charles1dad, ages ago, I would argue whether or not this artist, or that artist was the best on his chosen instrument, and I would argue my point till the cows came home. Since we were in the city, the cows never came home.

Now, as far as I'm concerned, it's the same as debating which is the best color, orange or blue? Is Lee Morgan better than Donald Byrd? I'm sure he is if we compare one unique aspect of Lee Morgan's playing with that same aspect of Donald Byrd's playing.

I don't listen like that, nor do I hear like that. When I listen to Lee Morgan, I'm in a jazz lovers paradise. When I listen to Donald Byrd, I'm in paradise still, although it's a bit different from the one I left with Lee Morgan.

Is orange better than blue? Orange is a very beautiful color when I'm looking at orange, but so is blue when I'm looking at blue.
Donald Byrd, talk about a blast from the past! As a young man I wore the grooves out of my copy of Black Byrd! I remember seeing him at Carnegie Hall with Gil Scott-Heron's Midnight Band. As I recall, Byrd's Jazz/Funk band had a hard time following GSH, but it was a great night of music nonetheless.
Hi Orpheus10,
Just so there`s no misunderstanding I`m at all not interested in ranking "who`s better". I was simply referring to who I like/prefer which is different. For example I prefer DHT SET amps but would`nt proclaim they`re the best amps period and the best choice for everyone else.I deeply enjoy many jazz musicians for their own style,contributions and approach. Hope I cleared that up.
One of my favorite Byrd/Adams albums was Royal Flush. I prefer Adams to Mclean who also worked with Byrd alot,just taste I guess.
Adams on this outing is more laid back,shows more restraint as he moves around the holes in the music. This was Herbie Hancocks debut but he sounds like a seasoned veteran here tickling the ivory.
I really like Feugo too,thats a real kicker of an album.
Charles1dad, you cleared it up all the way and I'm with you. The fact that we are all "audiophile's" and have rigs that add so much to the music we heard ages ago is icing on the cake.

Enjoy the music.
I've not listened to it in a long time, but I remember liking Byrd and Burrell, "All Night Long" quite a bit.

My first experience with Byrd was on Garland's very fine "Soul Junction," tho I like the Byrdless "Groovy" better.

Hi John,
Since you mentioned Burrell,I have a CD "Motor City Scene"
With Bryd,Kenny Burrell,Paul Chambers,Pepper Adams, Tommy Flanagan and drummer Hey Lewis. It`s beautiful! well recorded also.

Rockadanny, I can certainly respect your preference for Byrd as a sideman, instead of a leader. I just double checked my collection of LP's and CD's that feature Byrd as a "sideman".

He appeared with "Kenny Clark", on Bohemia After Dark;"Art Blakey", The Jazz Messengers; "Gene Ammons", Jammin With Gene; "Horace Silver", Six Pieces of Silver; "Sonny Clark", Sonny's Crib; "Pepper Adams", Out of this World; and "Hank Mobley", No Room For Squares. These are just the one's I have, he appears on many more as a sideman. Every last one of those albums consists of "deep in the pocket, heavy hitting jazz jams", while Donald Byrd also went into funk and soul as a leader.

I can see how the truest "connoisseurs" of jazz would make a statement such as yours.

Enjoy the music, it's all good.
I'll look for "Motor City Scene," Charles1dad.

On Burrell, I expect you've heard the nice Verve reissue of "Guitar Forms"?

My list would not be a list of who is the best, as O-10 has said that's a silly and impossible question to answer. My list, is a list of the difference makers. The seminal figures in Jazz. Just for fun, so put those daggers away!

1. The Creators - the people in and around New Orleans that created this music. I don't have a clue as to who they were, Jelly Roll Morton's protests notwithstanding. Without them, there is no Jazz.

2. Louis Armstrong - Took the music out of New Orleans and gave it to the world thru his talent and personality. A true ambassador. He may have been the only person that could do that.

3. Duke Ellington - elevated the music to a very sophisticated level. Showed it was more than just music for dance and speak-easy joints. Also a great Ambassador. Went on a world tour sponsered by the US State Dept. Played in the Soviet Union. One of the great composers of the 20th century. Period!

4. The be-bopers - Parker, Dizzy et al. Infused jazz with a new direction and engery at just the right time. Kept the music modern. Also expanded the audience.

5. Miles Davis - Took the music several new directions. Was involved in all the post bop movements. Brought in the young crowd as part of the audience. Fusion, cool etc..

6. The Players - these are all the people that give such enjoyment just by their high standard of play. here you will find players like, Sonny Rollins, Julian Adderly, Lee Morgan, Horace Silver and all the thousands more that have sustained the music thru the years.

7. Girl Singers - Gave Jazz a 'voice'! And what voices! Can't have any list about Jazz without Ella and Billie. They also opened the door for women in Jazz. As performers and as part of the audience. And like Brazilian sports super stars, they are recognized by their first names. Ella, Billie, Nina, Abbey, Sarah, Carmen, Dee Dee, They are, and that is, soooooooooooooo cool..

8. John Coltrane - Instrumental in taking Jazz a new direction that led to the Free and Advant-Garde movement. Wrong turn in my opinion. But great does not mean good. He was an important figure. Gotta give him his due.

9. Thelonious Monk - Unique. In a class by himself. Others wanted to follow, but COULD NOT. One of the great talents with a one of a kind musical instinct and personality. Made the cover of TIME, no small feat for a Jazz player. Once chewed Coleman Hawkins out. He makes the list for that alone. :)

10. The Germans - This refers to the immigrants from Europe, mostly German, mostly Jewish, who had the foresight and appreciation to record this great music. To encourage the players, to see things in the players that they didn't see in themselves. If not for them, we would have nothing to play on our gear. Because the powers that were at that time, had no interest in, or respect for, black music, and the players didn't have the wherewithall to do it. Jazz lovers owe them a debt that cannot be repaid.

For those that demand this - IMHO! :)
Very insightful and true, excellent perspective.

Rok2id, I'm glad you brought in the girl singers, this conversation would be incomplete without them. But you left one out that deserves to be ranked alongside the one's you mentioned, and to be placed in the company of those ladies is the highest of honors for a girl jazz singer.

Anita O'Day is one of the "jazziest" girl singers. Check her out on youtube at the Newport Jazz Festival singing "sweet Georgia Brown". I've never liked that song, but when Anita sung it at Newport, it was too hip for words, even the way she moved was jazzy.

A girl singer is known by the company she keeps. Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Coleman Hawkins, and Stan Kenton was some of the company Anita kept.

I like your list, and as I read it, I pictured that particular girl singing one of the tunes she was most famous for.

Conversations like this about the music I love, really makes my day, and I hope it makes yours to.

Thanks for the kind words. Thinking about all those 'vintage' guys has me listening to 'Jazz at Massey Hall' and 'JATP' tonight.

I don't mind the sound quality as much as I did at one time.
I love Donald Byrd. I prefer his jazz funk era though, which is heresy to many purist fans. Who cares? Smoke a joint and listen to Blackbyrd with your sweet lady and just let the sweet funkiness wash over your soul. Then you'll understand. Thanks for posting this.

Snakeyp, initially I was one of those purists who cried "foul, it ain't jazz". I went to the record store and bought a Donald Byrd LP, when I put it on and heard something different, "What's this"? If you went to the liquor store and bought what you thought was cognac, and tasted wine when you drank it, imagine your disappointment.

After I heard the same music much later, I accepted it for what it was "funk", now I'm a wine connoisseur. This is "social music", you can even dance to it. When Donald came out with this music, most of his fans were past that phase of their life. While hanging in the park groovin after dark, was a long ago memory, I could still relate to it, and I say to you "If grooving is your thing, then you and your sweet lady groove on".
I watched the youtube clip on O'Day. She is very good, and after a little research I discovered she had a very good career. She even recorded with The Three Sounds / Gene Harris, and Oscar Peterson. She is absolutely one of the great Jazz divas. But ALL experts seem to agree that the top three, Holiday, Fitzgerald and Vaughan are in a class by themselves. And there are a LOT of great singers outside the top three. So that's no slight against her. To paraphrase somneone, Place and Time of Birth is Destiny. Had she been born as the career's of the top three were coming to an end, she may have been a super star. As it happened, they were in their prime at the same time she was. She also had a heroin problem, as did many others.

But I thank you for bringing her to my attention. I have checked out her stuff on Amazon and will add her to my collection. One other thing:
How can Anyone Not like Sweet Georgia Brown!!!! It is a staple of the Jazz world. That's heresy!!

The other night i was browsing youtube and came across SUN RA. I watched just out of boredom expecting a bunch of noise, but I was really surprised. They played Jelly Roll's King Porter's Stomp!! It was very good. Sun RA is a guy you have to see to get the full impact. Great in person, not so great on CD. You learn something everyday.
Thanks for your post.
Well, the top 3 female singer list is hard to argue with,but....CarmenMcRae is my girl! She and Sarah when at their best just do it for me.In terms of recognition and fame Ella is clearly ahead of carmen( and ahead of sarah to for that matter). I have many ella recordings which I really enjoy. Carmen just connects with me on a deeper emotional level. Her best recordings IMO were the 1960s-late 1970s when she stuck with small combos and trios and had control in selecting her material and style(as opposed to her arranged big band and strings stuff from the 1950s).

" Bittersweet" from 1964 and the live early 1970s "The Great American Songbook" which includes Joe Pass in the quartet are two prime examples.

An excellent Sarah Vaughn is the 1963"After Hours" done with a guitar led trio(guitarist Mundell Lowe), it`s really special. A must have sarah is her with the great Clifford Brown, this is just plain wonderful.
I have Vaughan and Clifford Brown. Brown is another great player that left us too soon.
I also have a great Sarah Vaughan CD entitled -- Sassy Swings Again -- A lot of great players in the band. Including Jay Jay Johnson and Clark Terry. I will recommend it with a 'WARNING LABEL', because the first track is Sweet Georgia Brown! :)
I have five CDs by McRae. Two singing Billie Holiday and one singing Sarah and one with duets with Betty Carter. I also have her singing Monk. I don't think that worked very well. It could just be that Monk does not translate to vocals very well, at least not the way Horace Silver did on the Dee Dee Bridgewater CD. That is one great CD.

All this talk about divas, and no one has mentioned Nancy Wilson. Serious oversight. I have her with Cannonball Adderley. Great CD. Must have.

Rok and Charles, we are in total agreement in regard to the top 3 ladies. Carmen is my girl too, she sounds the most seductive.

I remember Clifford, he left us much too soon. "Sassy Swings Again" will be in my collection, "Sweet Georgia Brown" or not. Nancy is already well represented, including with Cannonball.

This is the best jazz discussion I've ever had here, keep it going.

Rok, I just discovered a video cassette in my collection of "Sun Ra". The title is "A Joyful Noise", and it includes his band when they lived in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia.

If you want to know more about "Sun Ra" and his music, I highly recommend "A Joyful Noise".
Getting back to the OP's original comments, I do have a habit of going off on tangents.

I did listen to all the youtube clips you mentioned. My not so 'expert' review is as follows:

Cristo Redentor: Excellent playing. Byrd has outstanding tone on the trumpet. This is what the critics call 'straight Ahead Jazz'. very enjoyable I will have to check out his Blue Note stuff.

Fuego: The best of all the cuts in my opinion. Again his tone is wonderful. Great ensemble playing. 5 Stars :)

Here I Am: You are right about Pepper. I only have a few by Mulligan so we can just agree to crown Pepper King of the Baritone!!

Now the not so great:
DB & the blackbyrds - Rock Creek Park.
The vocal parts were just Toooo monotonous, and not much was going on over the vocals. This is the type music that requires that the listener be doing some other activity or be distracted while it's being played. Partying, Dancing, be in a large crowd. Not to sit down and listen to.

Street lady: Same as the above. Maybe this was when everyone had to be 'high' to enjoy music.

BTW, I have a Donald Byrd CD other than Harlem Blues. I have a CD entitled 'Pepper Adams Quintet 10 to 4 at the 5 Spot'. Group is comprised of Adams, Byrd, Elvin Jones, Doug Watkins and Bobby Timmons (one of O-10's favorites)

Today I listened to Bernard Purdie. Anyone know of him? He may be in the same 'groove' as later byrd

I noticed that I liked all of his Blue Note stuff. I think he just evolved beyond me. Sort of like late Coltrane and Miles. But I ain't dead yet, so there is always a chance I will love them yet!! It's happened before. Thanks for the posts.
I have numerous recordings of both Pepper Adams and Gerry Mulligan. Two true masters of the baritone saxaphone,yet each with very different sound.Pepper was outstanding with hard bop,blues and could also play the most touching ballads.His version of Thad Jone`s "A Child is Born" is just fabulous.

An excellent Gerry Mulligan CD is "Night Lights" utterly beautiful baritone sax playing. This CD also features superb trumpet and flugelhorn playing by Art Farmer,it`s a classic.
I watched about half of "A Joyful Noise" I will finish it tomorrow. It's very compelling. Hard to look away. I have gained a new respect for Sun Ra and his music. I think he is sorta like Monk in costume. :) But I am not sure I would like it on CD. I do have at least one of his on LP. Thanks for the tip.

Rok, I think your criticism and critique of Donald Bird are both accurate and concise. In regard to Pepper Adams and Gerry Mulligan, it's a case of orange or blue.

While both Adams and Mulligan have records I could live without, both have records I wouldn't want to live without. Since you already know about Adams, I'll touch upon Mulligan. On the movie sound track "I Want To Live", he's the primary artist and his brooding baritone sets the mood for the entire movie. This music is also an excellent example of "West Coast Jazz", which I thought was hip at the time, but it came and went. No aficionado's collection is complete without it, if for no more than to know what it is.

I stated "A food critic must sample many dishes before he knows which is best". This critic has sampled many dishes that belonged in the garbage, and that's where I'll leave them. In this stage and phase of our lives as "jazz aficionado's", it's time to focus on the best and forget about the rest, that eliminates tangents like "Sun Ra". Fortunately, "we" meaning those of us who are still posting, are fairly "sympatico" in regard to what's best.

Apparently most of the "aficionados" have gone elsewhere, consequently we're all that's left; therefore, this thread has officially become, "The best of the best and leave the rest".

Today's playlist:

(1)Paul Chambers Quintet with: (1957)
donald byrd / cliff jordan / tommy flanagan / elvin jones

unexceptional Blue Note be-bop. A young Donald Byrd.

(2)The Sound Of Jazz (1958)
An attempt to introduce Jazz to the public by CBS televison. Nice enough. The highlight is hearing Billie Holiday. count basie, coleman hawkins and doc cheatham also on board. Great photos in the liner notes.

(3) Count On The Coast vol 1 (1958)
Big Band Jazz does not get better than this. Very tight playing. Count Basie and his orch with Joe Williams singing a few also. Al Grey is aboard on trombone. One of my favorite players!

(4)Smokin' At The Half-Note (1965)
Wes Montgomery and Wynton Kelly Trio. Critics say his (wes) best performance on record. Pat Metheny called it the Greatest Jazz Guitar Album ever!! And the solo on 'Unit 7', the best solo ever!! Won't get an arugument with me.

If you read about these guys you soon realize that they ALL knew each other! Played together and stayed together. Very close knit, this Jazz world.
Paul Chambers Quintet: When I listen to jazz, I try to take my mind back to when the record was made. This was cut in the late 50's, and that's when "West Coast jazz" was hip. This music has a west coast jazz feel to it.

The Sound of Jazz: was the most impressive thing I've ever seen on TV about jazz. When I looked at Billie Holiday singing "Fine and Mellow", it brought tears to my eyes; that's because I know her life story, and I could feel it when she sang.

Gerry Mulligan on baritone is standing next to Coleman Hawkins, and they're both blowing for "Lady Day". She's listening, and you can tell by that expression of total inner contentment on her face that she's really digin it.

Wes Montgomery: "Bumpin On Sunset" takes me back to another time and place; back to beautiful ladies and swinging lounges where they were dancing to "The Philly Dog". The music you chose was before that time, it was before he became famous. "Around Midnight", from "The Wes Montgomery Trio" is my favorite version. It's the one with the album cover on "youtube". While there is a difference in his music between this time and that time, I like both times for different reasons. The music he made, that made him famous, conjures up visions; while the music he made before then is his best jazz, and is the most listenable.

Today, I'm into Yusef Lateef. Although he's been widely used as a sideman, I prefer the albums he's led. Right now I'm listening to "The Blue Yusef Lateef"; this album covers a lot of musical territory.

The way we're going now, is the way I think this thread should proceed.

Enjoy the music.
Charles1dad, I hope we haven't lost you. Your contributions were important and very much appreciated.
This weekend:

Oscar Peterson - Night Train
I bought this just for the title track, but have since discovered that this ia wonderful disc from start to finish. Not a weak track on the disc. 5 star!!

James Booker - Resurrection of the Bayou Maharajah
This guy is supposed to be crazy, for real. This is one of those strange wonderful players from New Orleans. The recording captures the ambience of the club very well. Solo piano, so a good test for all those uber-alles systems out there.

Cannonball Adderley - Cannonball's Bosa Nova
Cannonball playing with players from Brazil. very nice on the ears, like all music of this type. The tunes by Jobim and Mendes are the highlights. None of the usual quintet appear.

Etta James & "cleanhead" Vinson - The Late Show
Great blues set recorded live at a club in LA. Etta passed away this year. Her blues singing was the 'real' thing.

Beethoven - 9th Symphony
Bohm / Vienna and Norman,Domingo,Fassbaender,Berry
with a lineup like that, perfection is within reach. It's very slow and the singing is great. You hear everything. In the same class of recording as Kleiber's 5&7. My favorite 9th of all time.

I only have one by Yusef Lateef. Titled 'Encounters'. I listened to it because you mentioned him. I have a lot more of him on LP. I think he is another one that evolved into into a player that sort of left me behind. Not bad, just does not keep me involved. I think he was one of the first into 'world' music. Plays a lot of different instruments also. I think I have him as a member of the cannonball quintet, "Dizzy's Business". Great album. Live in Tokyo.
Thanks for your post.
Donald Byrd R.I.P

He died on Feb 4 2013. Great musician,trumpeter, educator,producer, composer, arranger and bandleader!
Bummer. Sad to hear that he's gone on to play in heaven. The first thing I ever heard by him was 'Flight Time' back in '73, and I loved that jam. Since then my tastes in jazz have changed to straight-ahead jazz...I then re-discovered his earlier recordings and fell in love with his work all over again. 'Fuego' and 'BlackJack' are my two favorite Donald Byrd albums.
RIP Donald, you will be missed.
Yes, I`ll miss him but happy to have his recordings to play and enjoy his talent.
I much enjoyed reading this thread right now. I have to agree with all said. Donald and others before him live on in our minds and hearts and in our living rooms.
Thanks for the memories.

Today, I'm very saddened at the loss of my old friend Donald Byrd. Although I never met him, through his music I felt like he was a personal friend. Me and Donald go all the way back to 1960 when I met him on "Fuego". Since that time, we've been together throughout his many styles and musical changes. I'm thankful that I have so much of his music to enjoy, and I'm glad that he left so much music for all of us to share and enjoy.
What makes his passing even more depressing / discouraging, is the fact that he will not be replaced. Soon they will all be gone. Same for all the other genres, save Classical. Thank God for the CD.

Rok, they're already gone. While you've recommended some fantastic music that I've added to my collection, it's all old. Fortunately for us, Donald left so much good jazz, that as much as I have, I'm sure there are gems of his I don't have. When I acquire them, It'll be like meeting Donald all over again.
RIP Mr Byrd