Most Wanted! Donald Byrd – (Fallin’ Like) Dominoes (Blue Note)
American Jazz and Rhythm & Blues trumpeter, composer, bandleader and educator, Donaldson Toussaint L’Ouverture Byrd II has left an indelible imprint in the maturation of the groove. A master in Bebop Jazz, he – just like all of those who’ve dared doin’ so – would be the subject of heavy critics by the auto-proclaimed purists. This when venturing into new territories by the beginning of the 70’s. Meanwhile joinin’ forces with producers Larry and Fonce Mizell.
From then, they would revolutionize the sound and shape of Jazz-Funk while fusing Soul and R&B. Thus comin’ up with soaring horns, cosmic synths and celestial string arrangements over solid grooves. Eventually elevating Byrd to the rank of a crossover star. And most definitely a reference in the Hip-Hop scene.
Taken from the 1975 ‘Places And Spaces’, ‘Dominoes’ saw the contributions of luminaries such as George Bohannon on trombone. But also Skip Scarborough on Fender Rhodes. Not to mention Harvey Mason on drums with Byrd and the Mizell brothers on vocals. Needless to say it made no exception. Sampled among others by Ice Cube (‘I Wanna Kill Sam’) Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (‘Brand New Funk’) and Stetsasonic on the memorable ‘Talkin’ All That Jazz’…
“Donald Byrd, one of the leading Jazz trumpeters of the 50’s and early 60’s, who became both successful and controversial in the 70’s by blending Jazz, Funk and Rhythm and Blues into a Pop hybrid that defied categorization, died on Feb. 04 in Dover, DE He was 80.”
I suppose these few words one could read on The New York Times back on Feb. 13, 2013 say a lot as to how those Jazzmen who dared venturing into Disco, Funk or eventually electronic territories were considered. With this applying to many of them as a matter of fact. From Miles Davis to Herbie Hancock and Idris Muhammad. If not Pharoah Saunders…
A native of Detroit, MI, Donaldson Toussaint L’Ouverture Byrd II formed his first band during his teens. Eventually performing with Lionel Hampton before finishing high school. And establishin’ himself with his famous trumpet on the New York Jazz scene. This while working with luminaries such as Art Blakey, Max Roach and Herbie Hancock.
Byrd, aside from his activities as a musician, became a chairman at the Howard University after he’d acquired a teaching degree. With one of his students being Larry Mizell during the late 60’s. This bringin’ Byrd to soon after work with Larry and his brother, Fonce. With both of them comin’ to produce the memorable ‘Black Byrd’ back in 1973. An effort which for many years, remained Blue Note’s best-selling album.
That same year, Byrd helped to establish and co-produce some other student musicians who would make themselves quite a name as the Blackbyrds. Delivering a bunch of hits such as ‘Happy Music’, ‘Walking In Rhythm’ and ‘Rock Creek Park’.
Byrd went further on 2 years after with the Mizell brothers. This resulting in ‘Places And Spaces’. An album which spanned the highly influential ‘Change (Makes You Want To Hustle)’ and ‘Dominoes’.
During his tenure at North Carolina Central University by the end of the 70’s, he formed a group which included students from the college called the 125th Street, NYC. And together, they released 3 albums between 1979 and 1982. With their second – ‘Love Byrd’ – spanning the memorable ‘Love Has Come Around’. But also the vibrant ‘I Feel Like Loving You Today’ featuring Isaac Hayes who produced the whole album. ‘Feel Like Loving You Today’ heavily influencing Nu-Disco headz 6th Borough Project who sampled it on the infectious ‘McLovin” back in 2009.
Donald Byrd eventually went back to recording straight ahead Jazz. Which didn’t get him from his inclination to explore new territories. Such as on his collaboration with the late Guru on ‘Loungin” back in 1993 as a part of his ‘Jazzmatazz’ album.