Donaldson Toussaint L'Ouverture Byrd II (December 9, 1932 – February 4, 2013) was an American jazz and rhythm and blues trumpeter. A sideman for many other jazz musicians of his generation, Byrd was best known as one of the only bebop jazz musicians who successfully pioneered the funk and soul genres while simultaneously remaining a jazz artist. As a bandleader, Byrd is also notable for his influential role in the early career of renowned keyboard player and composer Herbie Hancock.
Centered around the Byrd/Adams Blue Note dates Byrd in Hand, Chant, Royal Flush, The Cat Walk, and Off to the Races, Mosaic's Complete Blue Note Donald Byrd/Pepper Adams Studio Sessions finds the Detroit natives at the top of their game during 1959-1962. Writing and performing some of the most original and tight hard bop around, Byrd and Adams led a variety of combos that featured the likes of Herbie Hancock (his first session), Wynton Kelly, Duke Pearson (who also contributed material), Charlie Rouse, Sam Jones, and Billy Higgins. From distinct covers ("Lover Come Back to Me") to seamlessly complex originals ("Bronze Dance"), Byrd's pure-toned trumpet and Adams' angular baritone unexpectedly make a perfect match. And beyond a wealth of sides that prove the point, the collection also features – in typically thorough and classy Mosaic fashion – some stunning session photos by Blue Note lensman Francis Wolff and an extensive essay by Bob Blumenthal. A hard bop experience of the highest order.
Given the long period of time that Donald Byrd recorded for Blue Note (from the 1950s through the mid-'70s), it seems more than a little disingenuous to refer to the relatively brief period he spent with the Mizell Brothers as his producers, arrangers, and composers in the '70s as his best work. It is true that it was his most commercially viable period, and that many of the cuts he recorded with them ~ AllMusic
Early Byrd: The Best of the Jazz Soul Years contains a selection of nine tracks from Donald Byrd's mid-'60s recordings, bypassing his funkier fusions of the late '60s and early '70s. These songs – including such numbers as "Slow Drag," "Jellyroll," "Mustang," "Blackjack" and "The Dude" – feature the trumpeter at his grittiest and funkiest. Fans of his early hard bop years will still find enough improvisation here to make it interesting, while latter-day fans will find enough grooves. It's a solid introduction to one of Byrd's most prolific periods.
Over the course of the past couple months, Donald Byrd has slowly supplanted Freddie Hubbard as my favorite trumpet player. Byrd has such a great combination of lyricism and a full, rich tone and it's shown off to great effect on Off to the Races, Byrd's first date as a leader on Blue Note (although he had led sessions on other labels prior to this). ~ Amazon