Since Monday rumors had been circulating via Twitter and Facebook that legendary trumpeter Donald Byrd had passed away but for the past few days none of these reports of the jazz musician and educator extraordinaire’s passing were confirmed and even considered some kind of cruel hoax. However today all those rumors were put to rest when confirmation of Byrd’s passing was announced by the artist’s nephew Alex Bugnon who said that his 80 year uncle had indeed died on Monday, February 4th, adding that for some reason other family members were trying to shroud his passing in secrecy. “I have no more patience for this unnecessary shroud of secrecy placed over his death by certain members of his immediate family,” wrote his nephew. So far the exact cause of death has not been made public.
Born Donaldson Toussaint L’Ouverture Byrd II in Detroit, Michigan in December 1932 Donald Bryd was a one of a kind trumpeter whose work spanned several decades and genres. Byrd was known for not only for his indelible work in jazz (in a career in which he played alongside the likes of John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Eric Dolphy, Thelonious Monk, and Herbie Hancock), but also in RnB, soul, and funk. And of course hip-hop fans know his work from the countless times it has been sampled. Large Professor, Organized Konfusion, Black Moon, The Pharcyde, Nas, Public Enemy, Madlib, and Del Tha Funkee Homosapien are among the many that sampled him along with fellow late great Detroit artist J Dilla was who clearly influenced by Byrd: Byrd’s song “Think Twice” (below) was reworked/sampled by Dilla on the Welcome 2 Detroit track “Think Twice feat Dwele.” Furthermore the once popular acid jazz movement heavily built upon its sound via Byrd’s work. In recent decades Byrd was known as an educator lecturing at numerous institutions on music.
Byrd’s career began when he joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, as replacement for Clifford Brown, in the 1950’s and while his roots were bebop in later decades he later became equally known for his forays off into jazz fusion. In the early seventies he formed the fusion group The Blackbyrds who became know for such hits as “Walking In Rhythm” and “Happy Music.” What sets Byrd’s body of work apart from others is how he transcended one particular genre or decade – but instead remained relevant and pioneering throughout his career as his sound effortlessly shape-shifted. If you visit the Amoeba online store, where you will find Byrd under a few categories, you will find such releases by Donald Byrd as (a great one to get if you don’t have Byrd in your library already) The Best Of Donald Byrd on Blue Note that includes “Change (Makes You Wanna Hustle)” which is below, Royal Flush, the reissued two hour/three album collection Three Classic Albums CD, Byrd In Flight, and Out Of This World by The Donald Byrd / Pepper Adams Quintet, featuring Herbie Hancock.