February 27, 2013

Donald Byrd blasted off this mortal coil earlier this month and this site was completely remiss in honoring his legacy. No excuses are worthwhile, but I will point you in the direction of Oliver Wang’s Soul Sides blog, who eulogized the jazz great with abyssal depth. Go there, download those tunes, dig deeper into the catalogue of the man who was sampled by everyone from Tribe Called Quest to Dilla to Black Moon to Pete Rock. In the wake of his passing, British radio doyen, Gilles Petersen inquired at Blue Note whether a legendary 1973 performance at Montreaux had been recorded. To the surprise of everyone, it had and had been lingering in the label’s vaults for the past 40 years. No more. Below the jump is an entire soundboard recording of one of the greatest trumpet players of all-time, backed by an all-star band at the height of his powers. This is on some, if you like jazz music, you need to hear this. And if you don’t like jazz music, what are you? Not on dope?

The note and the set and a Gilles tribute mix is below the jump. RIP to the only Donald I recognize.

Left-Click to Listen: Donald Byrd, Live at Montreaux (7/5/73)

As teenagers in Detroit during the 1960s, my friends and I regarded Donald Byrd with the same lofty respect reserved for other hometown musical heroes like Smokey Robinson, The MC5, Elvin Jones, Mitch Ryder, Aretha Franklin and John Lee Hooker….they were all amazing artists who were changing the face of music by exporting the sounds of our city to the rest of the world. The music of Donald Byrd was ubiquitous back then…cats like the legendary Motor City jazz disc jockey, Ed Love, would hit tracks like “Nai Nai” from “Free Form” and “Christo Redentor” from “A New Perspective” on a nightly basis…Later on, in the 1970s, Mr. Byrd started adding a healthy dose of Detroit-style funk to his records and his innovative music could be heard blasting out of dashboard mounted 8 track players and back seat subwoofers all over town…He was a Motor City Trumpet Revolutionary and his timeless music will never be forgotten.

Shortly after Mr. Byrd’s passing on February 4th, we got an email from the noted British music icon, Gilles Petersen, inquiring about a legendary performance from 1973’s Montreux Jazz Festival. Blue Note’s Curator-In-Chief, Michael Cuscuna, told us that it had, indeed, been recorded and subsequently mixed for release by Bob Belden in 1999. Inexplicably, it has remained hidden in the Blue Note vaults – until now. The tapes are wonderful and reveal a far more raw and gritty side to Donald Byrd’s 70’s music than his studio recordings might suggest….

As a special tribute to this Jazz Immortal and as a gift to the legions of aficionados who, like all of us at Blue Note Records, treasure the music he’s left behind, we are honored to present – for the first time – Donald Byrd, Live at Montreux from July 5, 1973.

Don Was
President, Blue Note Records

Donald Byrd, Trumpet, Fluegelhorn, Vocals; Fonce Mizell, Trumpet, Vocals; Allan Barnes, Tenor Sax, Flute; Nathan Davis, Tenor Sax, Soprano Sax; Kevin Toney, Electric Piano; Larry Mizell, Synthesizer; Barney Perry, Electric Guitar; Henry Franklin, Electric Bass; Keith Killgo, Drums, Vocals; Ray Armando, Conga, Percussion.

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