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Donald Byrd
Birth name Donaldson Toussaint L'Ouverture Byrd II
Born December 9, 1932 (1932-12-09) (age 77)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Genres Jazz, Rhythm and blues, Funk
Instruments Trumpet

Donaldson Toussaint L'Ouverture Byrd II (born December 9, 1932) is an American jazz and rhythm and blues trumpeter.




Early life and education

Born in Detroit, Michigan, 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.

Playing career

While still at the Manhattan School he joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, replacing Clifford Brown. In 1955, he recorded with Jackie McLean and Mal Waldron. After leaving the Jazz Messengers in 1956 he performed with a wide variety of highly regarded jazz musicians, including John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, and Thelonious Monk. Byrd's first full-time band was a quintet he co-led from 1958-61 with Pepper Adams, an ensemble whose hard driving performances are captured "live" on At The Half Note Café, Vols. 1 & 2. 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, he moved away from his previous hard-bop jazz base and began to record jazz fusion, Jazz-funk, soul-Jazz, and rhythm and blues. Teaming up with the Mizell Brothers, they produced Black Byrd, which was enormously successful and became Blue Note Records' highest-ever selling album. The Mizell Brothers follow-up production albums for Byrd, Places and Spaces, Steppin' Into Tomorrow and Street Lady were also big sellers, and have subsequently provided a rich source of samples for acid jazz artists such as Us3.

In 1993, Byrd teamed up with Gang Starr MC Guru for the track "Loungin'" on the Jazzmatazz project.

As a music educator

He has taught music at Rutgers University, the Hampton Institute, New York University, Howard University, Queens College, Oberlin College and Delaware State University,. In 1974 he created the Blackbyrds, a fusion group consisting of his best students. They scored several major hits including "Rock Creek Park", "Walking In Rhythm" and "Blackbyrds Theme".

In September, 2009 he was named an artist-in-residence at Delaware State University.[1]

Byrd lives in Teaneck, New Jersey.[2]



  • Off to the Races (1958), Blue Note
  • Byrd in Hand (1959)
  • Fuego (1959)
  • Byrd in Flight (1960)
  • Royal Flush (1961)
  • Free Form (1961)
  • The Cat Walk (1962)
  • Groovin' for Nat (1962)
  • A New Perspective (1963)
  • I'm Tryin' To Get Home (1964)
  • Up With Donald Byrd (1965) Verve Records
  • Mustang! (1966)
  • Slow Drag (1967)
  • Blackjack (1967)
  • Fancy Free (1969)
  • Electric Byrd (1970)
  • Ethiopian Knights (1971)
  • Black Byrd (1972)
  • Street Lady (1973)
  • Stepping into Tomorrow (1974)
  • Places and Spaces (1975)
  • Caricatures (1976)
  • Thank You...For F.U.M.L. (Funking Up My Life) (1978)
  • Donald Byrd And 125th Street, N.Y.C. (1979)
  • Love Byrd: Donald Byrd and 125th St, N.Y.C. (1981)
  • Words, Sounds, Colors and Shapes (1983)
  • Harlem Blues (1987)
  • Getting Down to Business (1989)
  • A City Called Heaven (1991)
  • Touchstone (2000)
  • The Transition Sessions (2002)
  • Out of This World (2003)
  • At the Half Note Cafe, Vol. 1 (2003)
  • At the Half Note Cafe, Vol. 2 (2003)
  • At the Half Note Cafe, Vol. 1-2 (Bonus Tracks) (2004)
  • In a Soulful Mood (2005)
  • Pop-Jazz Volume 1 (2006)



External links


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