Jazz musician Donald Byrd, a leading hard-bop trumpeter of the 1950s who collaborated on dozens of albums with top artists of his time and later enjoyed commercial success with hit jazz-funk fusion records such as "Black Byrd," has died. He was 80.
He died Feb. 4 in Delaware, according to Haley Funeral Directors in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, Mich., which is handling arrangements. No other details were available.
The trumpeter, who was born Donaldson Toussaint L'Ouverture Byrd II in Detroit on Dec. 9, 1932, played in military bands in the Air Force before moving to New York in 1955. He rose to national prominence when he joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers later that year, filling the seat in the bebop group held by his idol Clifford Brown.
He soon became one of the most in-demand trumpeters on the New York scene, playing with Max Roach,
In 1958, Byrd signed an exclusive recording contract with the Blue Note label and formed a band with a fellow Detroit native, baritone saxophonist
In the 1960s, Byrd, who had received a master's degree from the
Byrd began moving toward a more commercial sound with the funk-jazz fusion album "Fancy Free" in 1969, taking a path followed by fellow trumpeters
Jazz critics panned Byrd for deviating from the jazz mainstream, but he was unperturbed.
"I'm creative; I'm not re-creative," Byrd told the
Byrd invited several of his best students at Howard to join a jazz-fusion group called the Blackbyrds that reached a mainstream audience with a sound heavy on R&B and rock influences. The band landed in the Top 10 on the R&B charts with the mid-1970s albums "Street Lady," "Stepping Into Tomorrow" and "Place and Spaces."
In the late '80s and early '90s, Byrd returned to playing hard-bop on several albums for the Landmark label, which also featured saxophonists Kenny Garrett and Joe Henderson.
He performed on Guru's 1993 jazz-rap album, "Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1," and his recordings were sampled on more than 100 hip-hop songs by such performers as Black Moon,
In 2000, the National Endowment for the Arts recognized Byrd as a Jazz Master, the nation's highest jazz honor.