American jazz trumpeter, composer, bandleader and educator.
Born: 9 December 1932 in Detroit, Michigan, USA.
Died: 4 February 2013 in Dover, Delaware, USA (aged 80).
Byrd attended Cass Tech, where he studied classical music and was mentored by the band director Dr. Harry Begian, a disciplinarian. He played trumpet in military bands during a stint in the Air Force from 1951–1953, before graduating from Wayne State University in 1954 with a music degree. Like other young Detroit jazz musicians, he also studied with bebop pianist Barry Harris (2).
Byrd's warmly burnished sound, fluent technique and aggressive-yet-graceful swing was rooted in the style of Clifford Brown, but his gangly, rhythmically loose phrasing was a unique calling card right from the get-go. As Byrd matured in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he tempered his hummingbird flourishes with a cooler sensibility and phrasing.
Byrd recorded prolifically both as a sideman and a leader, appearing on scores of recordings on the Savoy Records, Prestige, Riverside Records and Blue Note labels. He led a feisty quintet with his old pal from Detroit, baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams, from 1958–1961. Byrd also gave a young pianist from Chicago named Herbie Hancock his first major exposure by hiring him in 1961.
As a composer, Byrd was proficient in church-inspired shouts, funky and sophisticated blues forms and structurally interesting originals. He had a wider field of vision than many of his peers, exemplified by his influential 1963 LP, “A New Perspective” (Blue Note), which married his small group with a gospel choir.
Byrd never stopped going to school. He earned a master's degree in music education from the Manhattan School of Music in the late 1950s, studied composition with the famous classical pedagogue Nadia Boulanger in France in the early 1960s, earned a law degree from Howard University in 1976 and a doctorate from Columbia Teachers College in New York in the early 1980s.
Beginning in the 1960s, Byrd taught at many universities, most notably Rutgers, Howard and North Carolina Central.
By the early 1970s, Byrd had begun exploring a danceable fusion of jazz, R&B and soul. In 1973, he teamed with current and former students at Howard, where he was chairman of the black music department, to make the best-selling LP “Black Byrd”. Produced by brothers Larry Mizell & Fonce Mizell, the record and its sequels elevated Byrd into a crossover star.
Donaldson Toussaint L'Ouverture Byrd II (born December 9, 1932 – February 4, 2013) was an American jazz, rhythm and blues trumpeter. Born in Detroit, Michigan. He performed with Lionel Hampton before finishing high school. After playing in a military band during a term in the United States Air Force, he obtained a bachelor's degree in music from Wayne State University and a master's degree from Manhattan School of Music. While still at the Manhattan School he joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, replacing Clifford Brown. After leaving the Jazz Messengers in 1956 he performed with a wide variety of highly regarded jazz musicians. In the 1970s, he moved away from his previous hard-bop jazz base and began to record jazz fusion and rhythm and blues. Teaming up with the Mizell Brothers, he produced Black Byrd, which was enormously successful and became Blue Note Records' highest-ever selling album. The follow-up albums, Places and Spaces, Stepping Into Tomorrow, and Street Lady, were also big sellers, and have subsequently provided a rich source of samples for hip-hop artists such as Us3. He has taught music at Rutgers University, the Hampton Institute, New York University, Howard University, and Oberlin College. In 1974 he created The Blackbyrds, a fusion group consisting of his best students. They scored several major hits, including "Walking In Rhythm" and "Blackbyrds Theme". Read more on Last.fm. last.fm