Black History

Black History Moment: Donaldson Toussaint L’Ouverture Byrd II. R.I.P. Jazz Trumpeter

By Jueseppi B.







Donaldson Toussaint L’Ouverture Byrd II (December 9, 1932 – February 4, 2013) was an American jazz and rhythm and blues trumpeter. A sideman for many other jazz musicians of his generation, Byrd is best known as one of the only bebop jazz musicians who successfully pioneered the funk and soul genres while simultaneously remaining a pop artist.



Donald Byrd
Birth name Donaldson Toussaint

L’Ouverture Byrd II

Born December 9, 1932
Origin DetroitMichiganUnited States
Died February 4, 2013
Genres Bop
Hard bop
Instruments Trumpet
Associated acts Pepper AdamsGigi Gryce,

Jackie McLeanHank Mobley





Byrd attended Cass Technical High School. 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, as replacement for Clifford Brown. In 1955, he recorded with Jackie McLean and Mal Waldron. After leaving the Jazz Messengers in 1956, he performed with many leading jazz musicians of the day, including John ColtraneSonny RollinsThelonious Monk, and later Herbie Hancock. Byrd’s first regular group was a quintet that he co-led from 1958-61 with baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams, an ensemble whose hard-driving performances are captured “live” on At the Half Note Cafe. In June 1964, Byrd jammed with jazz legend Eric Dolphy in Paris just two weeks before Dolphy’s death from insulin shock.


In the 1970s, Byrd moved away from the hard-bop jazz idiom and began to record jazz fusion and rhythm and blues. He teamed up with the Mizell Brothers (producer-writers Larry and Fonce) for Black Byrd in 1973. It was highly successful and became Blue Note Records’ highest-ever selling album. The title track climbed to No. 19 on Billboard′s R&B chart and reached the Hot 100 pop chart, peaking at No. 88. The Mizell brothers’ follow-up albums for Byrd, Street LadyPlaces and Spaces and Stepping into Tomorrow, were also big sellers, and have subsequently provided a rich source of samples for acid jazz artists such as Us3.



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Most of the material for the albums was written by Larry Mizell. In 1973, he created The Blackbyrds, a fusion group consisting of his best students. They scored several major hits including “Happy Music” (No. 3 R&B, No. 19 pop), “Walking In Rhythm” (No. 4 R&B, No. 6 pop) and “Rock Creek Park”.


During his tenure at North Carolina Central University during the 1980’s, he formed a group which included students from the college called, Donald Byrd & the 125th St NYC Band. He taught at Rutgers University, the Hampton InstituteNew York UniversityHoward UniversityQueens College,Oberlin CollegeCornell UniversityNorth Carolina Central University and Delaware State University. In addition to his master’s from Manhattan School of Music, Byrd had two master’s degrees from Columbia University. He received a law degree in 1976, and his doctorate from Columbia University Teachers College in 1982.


Byrd lived in Teaneck, New Jersey until his death on February 4, 2013 at the age of 80.







Influential jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd passed away on Monday due to causes not yet revealed, Amoeba Records reports. He was 80 years old.


According to Amoeba, the news was passed along by Byrd’s nephew, Alex Bugnon, who said: “I have no more patience for this unnecessary shroud of secrecy placed over his death by certain members of his immediate family.”


Byrd’s influence was felt long past his peak as a recording trumpeter– his work has been sampled by hip-hop artists ranging from Public Enemy and Nas to Madlib and the Pharcyde.  J Dilla repurposed Byrd’s “Think Twice” for a song on his album Welcome 2 Detroit.


“Let’s remember Donald as a one of a kind pioneer of the trumpet, of the many styles of music he took on, of music education,” Bugnon wrote in a statement, according to Amoeba. “In sum, Donald was an avid, eternal student of music, until his death. That’s what I try to be, everyday!! Rest in peace, uncle!”



Donald Byrd and the Blackbyrds: “Happy Music”


Uploaded on Feb 8, 2012

1975 • City Life LP •
Produced by Donald Byrd and released on Fantasy. Great album of Funk, rhythms & melodies are amazing. Happy Music is a killer dancefloor track, put your dancing shoes & feel the FUNK !






Donald Byrd and the Blackbyrds– Rock Creek Park








Donald Byrd – (Falling Like) Dominoes







Donald byrd – Places and spaces out ther. (good sound)







Donald Byrd – Cristo Redentor







Donald Byrd – Witch Hunt (Street Lady 1973)







Donald Byrd – Flight Time







As leader

Blue Note Records
Landmark Records
Other labels

As sideman







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