Detroit’s Donald Byrd – Blue Note regular, and one of fusion jazz’s most significant names – has died.
According to Byrd’s nephew Alex Bugnon, Byrd passed away on Monday. Taking to his Facebook page, Bugnon wrote: “Donald passed away Monday in Delaware, where he lived. His funeral will be held in Detroit sometime next week.” The news has apparently been kept hush-hush by Byrd’s relatives, with Coulton writing “I have no more patience for this unnecessary shroud of secrecy placed over his death by certain members of his immediate family.” He was 80.
Byrd rose to prominence performing be-bop with Art Blakey’s ensemble The Jazz Messengers in the 1950s, playing alongside legends like John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins and Herbie Hancock. Like the latter, Byrd caught wider notice experimenting with jazz fusion: landmark releases include 1963’s A New Perspective (notable for heart-stopping gospel number ‘Cristo Redentor’), 1972’s Black Byrd (Blue Note’s biggest seller) and 1976 R&B landmark Places And Spaces.
After turning his focus towards teaching in the 1980s, he found himself lionised as a hero by the acid jazz movement in the 1990s. His back catalogue has also been repeatedly plundered by hip-hop artists: Public Enemy, Nas and, latterly, Madlib have all made productive use of his original work. [via The Guardian]