Legendary jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd’s death has been confirmed. Although he died earlier this week, February 4 at the age of 80 , family members for an unexplained reason other were trying to keep the news of his death private.
“I have no more patience for this unnecessary shroud of secrecy placed over his death by certain members of his immediate family,” wrote Bugnon.
Born in Detroit December 9, 1932, Donaldson Toussaint L’Ouverture Byrd II 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.
Already an accomplished trumpeter by the time he finished high school, he later went on to play in a military band during his term in the United States Air Force, and then obtained a bachelor’s degree in music from Wayne State University and a master’s degree from Manhattan School of Music. His career began when he joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, as a replacement for Clifford Brown, in the 1950s
Moving away from the hard-bop jazz idiom, Byrd 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 Lady, Places 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. Most of the material for the albums was written by Larry Mizell.
In 1973, Byrd 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 Institute, New York University, Howard University, Queens College, Oberlin College, Cornell University, North 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.
According to his nephew Amoeba, Byrd was a “one of a kind trumpeter,” who was known not just for his work in jazz, but also in R&B, soul and funk music, and it was his ability to transcend time and genre and remain relevant that sets his work apart from others.
Byrd lived in Teaneck, New Jersey until his death on February 4, 2013 at the age of 80 The cause of death has yet to be released.