Donald Byrd – Black Byrd


Purists howled with indignation when Donald Byrd released Black Byrd, a full-fledged foray into R&B that erupted into a popular phenomenon. Byrd was branded a sellout and a traitor to his hard bop credentials, especially after Black Byrd became the biggest-selling album in Blue Note history. What the elitists missed, though, was that Black Byrd was the moment when Byrd’s brand of fusion finally stepped out from under the shadow of his chief influence, Miles Davis, and found a distinctive voice of its own. Never before had a jazz musician embraced the celebratory sound and style of contemporary funk as fully as Byrd did here — not even Davis, whose dark, chaotic jungle-funk stood in sharp contrast to the bright, breezy, danceable music on Black Byrd. Byrd gives free rein to producer/arranger/composer Larry Mizell, who crafts a series of tightly focused, melodic pieces often indebted to the lengthier orchestrations of Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield. They’re built on the most straightforward funk rhythms Byrd had yet tackled, and if the structures aren’t as loose or complex as his earlier fusion material, they make up for it with a funky sense of groove that’s damn near irresistible. Byrd’s solos are mostly melodic and in-the-pocket, but that allows the funk to take center stage. Sure, maybe the electric piano, sound effects, and Roger Glenn’s ubiquitous flute date the music somewhat, but that’s really part of its charm. Black Byrd was state-of-the-art for its time, and it set a new standard for all future jazz/R&B/funk fusions — of which there were many. Byrd would continue to refine this sound on equally essential albums like Street Lady and the fantastic Places and Spaces, but Black Byrd stands as his groundbreaking signature statement. (

Personnel: Donald Byrd (vocals, trumpet, electric trumpet, flugelhorn); Fonce Mizell (vocals, trumpet); Freddie Perren (vocals, electric piano, synthesizer); Larry Mizell (vocals); David T. Walker, Dean Parks, Barney Perry (guitar); Allan Curtis Barnes (flute, oboe, saxophone); Roger Glenn (flute, saxophone); Joe Sample (piano, electric piano); Kevin Toney (piano); Chuck Rainey, Wilton Felder (electric bass); Harvey Mason, Sr. , Keith Killgo (drums); Perk Jacobs, Stephanie Spruill, Bobbye Hall, Bobbye Porter (percussion).


01. Flight Time
02. Black Byrd
03. Love’s So Far Away
04. Mr. Thomas
05. Sky High
06. Slop Jar Blues
07. Where Are We Going?

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2 Responses to “Donald Byrd – Black Byrd”

  1. Fred says:

    Great music! A must have! Get i!

  2. Ededdeddie says:

    Great album. You can NEVER go wrong with D Byrd. ‘Up’ and ‘A New Perspective’ are on my top 100 list of greatest well known jazz albums of all time. I love your blog, Rapp, and your taste is SU-PERB!!!!!!

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