b. Donaldson Toussaint L'Ouverture Byrd II, 9th December 1932, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.
d. 4th February 2013, Dover, Delaware, U.S.A.
Donald Byrd is one of very few Jazz musicians, whose musical style has moved across the Jazz genre's fairly effortlessly throughout his diverse career.
His father was a Methodist minister and an amateur musician.
He attended Cass Technical High School on Second Avenue in Detroit, Michigan.
Donald had become an accomplished trumpeter by the time he finished high school, performing at this time with Lionel Hampton.
He served in the Air Force, during which time he played in a military band.
Donald then studied music at Wayne State University, from which he received his bachelor's degree in 1954.
He went on to receive a master's degree from the Manhattan School of Music in the mid-'50's.
byrds word - 1955 / 2 trumpets - 1956
Durning this period, he recorded for the Prestige, Riverside, and Blue Note, and Savoy labels (amongst others), both as a leader and as a sideman.
Following stints with the likes of Max Roach, Art Blakey, and Sonny Rollins, he co-led a band with the baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams from 1958-61.
Donald studied composition in Europe from 1962-63, then returned to the U.S., where he established himself as an academician, teaching at Rutgers, Howard University, and the Hampton Institute.
He was later to received his law degree in 1976, leading to a period of teaching at North Carolina Central University, and in 1982, he received his doctorate from Columbia Teachers College.
Donald continued to perform and record, releasing a number of fine straight-ahead Blue Note albums throughout the '60's.
fancy free - 1969 / electric byrd - 1970
In the '70's, his music diversified, coming to the attention of a blossoming fusion audience.
During the early Seventies, Donald enlisted several of his Howard University students, forming a band whose title became based around his surname, The Blackbyrds.
They recorded a string of successful chart singles which included the song 'Walking In Rhythm', an enormous pop hit both sides of the Atlantic.
ethiopian nights - 1971 / blackbyrd - 1972 / street lady - 1973 / stepping into tomorrow - 1975 / places and spaces - 1976 / caricatures -1977
Donald recorded a number of highly respected fusion album releases during this period, working alongside producers 'The Mizell Brothers' throughout this period with 'Places & Spaces' being considered his finest work at this time.
the mizell brothers (larry & fonce)
The first release with the Mizell's was 1972's, 'Black Byrd' (which featured 'Flight Time' and 'Where Are We Going'), which was followed by 'Street Lady' (in 1973 and featured 'Lansana's Priestess'), 'Stepping into Tomorrow' (in 1975 and featured 'Think Twice' and 'Design A Nation'), the classic, 'Places and Spaces' (in 1976 and featured 'Dominoes', 'Change (Makes You Wanna Hustle' and 'Wind Parade'), and 'Caricatures' (in 1977 and featured 'Wild Life and 'Onward Til Morning').
thank you for f.u.m.l...(funking up my life) - 1978 / and 125th street, n.y.c. - 1979 / love byrd - 1981 / words, sounds, colors and shapes - 1982
On leaving the Blue Note label, Donald relocated to the Elektra imprint, releasing 1978's 'Thank You...F.U.M.L (Funking Up My Life)', which featured the Syreeta vocal fronted 'Loving You'.
1979 saw a slightly more subdued Donald on his 'Donald Byrd and 125th St, NYC' release, which featured the instrumental 'Morning'.
By 1981, Donald had teamed up with Isaac Hayes for two album releases, the first of which was 'Love Byrd'.
This album contained, probably, his most commercial dancer to date in the form of 'Love Has Come Around', which proved hugely popular on the dancefloors, although the more subdued 'I Feel Like Loving You Today' received a great deal of attention from those on the Modern Soul Circuit.
1982's 'Words, Sounds, Colors and Shapes' proved less successful, and Donald retired from the recording studio for an eight year period, before returning to the studio for a more straight ahead Jazz album called 'Getting Down To Business' in 1990.
He began returning to his more traditional Jazz Roots, recording with peers such as Joe Henderson and Bobby Hutcherson, and with younger musicians including Kenny Garrett and Mulgrew Miller.
In 2001, Donald Byrd had become unwell, however, he continued to work.
In September 2009, he was named an artist-in-residence at Delaware State University.
Donald resided in Teaneck, New Jersey.
He passed away in Delaware in 2013.
donvonte mccoy and donald at howard university 2009
Long Green Savoy (Savoy Jazz Records 1955)
Byrd's Word (Savoy Jazz Records 1955)
Two Trumpets (Prestige Records 1956)
September Afternoon (Discovery Records 1956)
The Jazz Message Of... (Savoy Records 1956)
Modern Jazz Perspective [Jazz Lab, Vol. 2] (Columbia Records 1957)
Jazz Lab (Jubilee Records 1957)
Star Eyes (Savoy Records 1957)
Three Trumpets (Original Jazz Records 1958)
Byrd in Paris, Vol. 2: Parisian Thoroughfare [live] (Polydor Records 1958)
Byrd in Paris, Vols. 1 & 2 [live] (Polydor Records 1958)
Off to the Races (Blue Note Records 1958)
Byrd in Hand (Blue Note Records 1959)
Fuego (Blue Note Records 1959)
Byrd in Flight (Blue Note Records 1960)
Donald Byrd at the Half Note Cafe, Vols. 1-2 [live] (Blue Note Records 1960)
Donald Byrd at the Half Note Cafe, Vol. 1 [live] (Blue Note Records 1960)
Donald Byrd at the Half Note Cafe, Vol. 2 [live] (Blue Note Records 1960)
Stardust (Bethlehem Records 1960)
Motor City Scene (Bethlehem Records 1960)
Chant (Blue Note Records 1961)
The Cat Walk (Blue Note Records 1961)
Royal Flush (Blue Note Records 1961)
Free Form (Blue Note Records 1961)
Groovin' for Nat (Black Lion Records 1962)
A New Perspective (Blue Note Records 1963)
Up with Donald Byrd (Verve Records 1964)
I'm Tryin' to Get Home (Blue Note Records 1964)
Mustang! (Blue Note Records 1966)
Blackjack (Blue Note Records 1967)
Slow Drag (Blue Note Records 1967)
The Creeper (Blue Note Records 1967)
Fancy Free (Blue Note Records 1969)
Kofi (Blue Note Records 1969)
Electric Byrd (Blue Note Records 1970)
Ethiopian Knights (Blue Note Records 1971)
Black Byrd (Blue Note Records 1972)
Street Lady (Blue Note Records 1973)
Steppin' into Tomorrow (Blue Note Records 1974)
Places and Spaces (Blue Note Records 1975)
Caricatures (Blue Note Records 1976)
Thank You...For F.U.M.L. (Funking up My Life) (Elektra Records 1978)
Donald Byrd and 125th St, N.Y.C. (Elektra Records 1979)
Love Byrd (Elektra Records 1981)
Words, Sounds, Colours & Shapes (Elektra Records 1982)
Harlem Blues (Landmark Records 1987)
Getting Down to Business (Landmark Records 1989)
A City Called Heaven (Landmark Records 1991)
Harlem Blues (Landmark Records 1991)
In A Soulful Mood (Music Club International Records 2005)
With Strings (Lone Hill Jazz Records 2006)