R.I.P. – Donald Byrd

Posted: February 12, 2013 in Memorial
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On February 4, 2013 music lost an amazing and influential artist.  Jazz Master trumpeter Donald Byrd has passed at the age of 80.   You don’t think you know who Donald Byrd is?  Well I bet you do even if you are not a jazz fan.  His music has been sampled in over 100 hip-hop songs including Nas “NY State of Mind” and A Tribe Called Quest “Footprints”.  He has performed in traditional jazz, acid jazz, R&B, soul and hip hop groups.  He has performed with all of the jazz greats and was a teacher and mentor to artists such as Herbie Hancock.  Byrd began playing his hard bop style of trumpet in the 1950s and continued as a performer, band leader and producer for almost 60 years.  In the 1970s he adapted to the changing face of music and started the jazz-fusion, R&B group The Blackbyrds along with some of his students from Howard University with whom he had a Grammy nominated hit song “Walking in Rhythm”.  Admittedly I did not become a fan of Byrd until his 1993 collaboration with Guru on the album Jazzmatazz Vol. 1 playing a sweet trumpet backing to Guru’s smooth rap on “Loungin'”.  Byrd was an extremely well educated man who knew the importance of sharing his knowledge through teaching.  He had an undergraduate degree from Wayne State University, a Master’s degree from Manhattan School of Music, and both a law degree and doctorate in teaching from Columbia University.  Throughout the years he taught at more than 10 colleges including Cornell University, Rutgers University where he was the first jazz teacher, and Howard University where he founded the jazz program.  Although he is no longer with us, his legacy will live on through his own music as well as his influence on so many other artists (and samples in their songs).  I encourage you to spend some time exploring his works.


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