|Birth name||Donaldson Toussaint L'Ouverture Byrd II|
|Born||December 9, 1932
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
|Genres||Jazz, Rhythm and blues, Funk|
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.
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.
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.