After losing the great Dave Brubeck last December, the jazz world suffers another great loss, as Donald Byrd was reported to have died on Monday, at age 80. Byrd’s nephew just confirmed his death today, three days after it actually occurred, which raised some debate and controversy on the web.
Donaldson Toussaint L’Ouverture Byrd II, was born in 1932. He became famous as a jazz trumpeter notably in the 1950s, becoming a major element of the hard bop, funky soul jazz movement. He played with some of the greatest musicians the genre has known, such as tenor saxophonists Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, pianist Herbie Hancock, and many more. While still in school, he joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, a band often referred to as the incarnation of the hard bop style and notorious springboard for young talented musicians, replacing the deceased Clifford Brown.
Although this is just a quick insight of his career, it suffices to affirm Byrd as an essential musician in his time. He is today remembered mostly thanks to his very soulful, peaceful and powerful version of Duke Pearson’s Cristo Redentor. His influence spread over the years and reached the hip hop world tens of years after his prime, being sampled by major artists such as The Pharcyde and contributing to Guru’s famous tune Loungin’.
A tough loss for any jazz enthusiast and yet another name to cross on the list of last jazz giants of the 1950s still living today, a list that still includes Sonny Rollins, Benny Golson and a few more.
Check out my music blog’s last entry, a Sonny Rollins tune featuring the great Donald Byrd on trumpet!
RIP Donald Byrd (1932 – 2013)