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Died On This Date (February 4, 2013) Donald Byrd / Jazz Great

Posted by themusicsover on February 4, 2013

Donald Byrd
December 9, 1932 – February 4, 2013

Photo by William Claxton

Photo by William Claxton

Donald Byrd was an influential jazz trumpeter who successfully brought jazz into R&B, funk, and later hip hop.  Born in Detroit, Michigan, Byrd was proficient at his instrument at a young age.  In fact, he performed with Lionel Hampton before graduating from high school.  After serving in the United States Air Force where he played in the band, Byrd earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music. While pursuing his master’s in New York City, he was hired by Art Blakey to play in his Jazz Messengers.  After leaving Blakey in 1956, Byrd played with some of the greatest names jazz has ever known.  That list includes Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, and Thelonious Monk.  During the ’70s, Byrd steered his horn toward fusion and R&B.  Although he had been recording influential albums for Blue Note Records as far back as 1959, it wasn’t until 1973’s Black Byrd that he delivered what would become the label’s biggest selling album.  He continued to release best sellers for many years to come.  Byrd was also an educator, having taught at Rutgers, NYU, and Howard University, to name a few.  In all, Byrd earned three Master’s degrees, a Doctorate and law degree.  During the ’90s, Byrd collaborated with hip hop great, Guru of Gang Starr fame on the latter’s Jazzmatazz Vol. 1 which was one of the first albums to back rap with live jazz musicians  and give it a hip hop production.  The landmark album was followed by a second volume that also featured Byrd.  He also contributed to the evolution of hip hop through the use of sampling.  Pieces of his music can be heard in cuts by the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy, and Naughty By Nature.  Donald Byrd was 80 when he passed away on February 4, 2013.  Cause of death was not immediately released.

Thanks to Harold Lepidus from Bob Dylan Examiner for the assist.

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4 Responses to “Died On This Date (February 4, 2013) Donald Byrd / Jazz Great”

  1. I got into Donald Byrd's trumpet when I was discovering John Coltrane. Now he's joined Coltrane & a bunch of other jazz phenoms at another venue….

  2. Tim Cox said

    Donald Byrd and The Blackbyrds; rest in peace, DONALD B.

  3. André Benito Mountain said

    I encountered Donald Byrd by way of Guru's Jazzamataz, but later discovered much of his earlier work. Planning to incorporate a tribute in our Taking Notes: Jazz and the American Story presentation because Donald Byrd was a jazz master who should be recognized for his contribution to the art form. Rest in peace.

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