I heard of the death of jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd yesterday. I was introduced to his music during my college days and have listened to his work ever since. Professor Byrd’s 1963 album ‘A New Perspective’ was a magical, historical and spiritual indulgence that engages all the senses in its artistic superiority. A blend of instrumentation and voices album pieces such as the well known Christor Redentor speak to the soul of the listener in the tongues spirit and resilience. Christor Redentor is a perfect piece of music to commemorate what many celebrate during this month of historical remembrance. I also invite you to review the album personnel that features such jazz greats as Hank Mobley, Herbie Hancock and Kenny Burrell. Mr. Byrd also played and collaborated with many jazz greats, most notably the great John Coltrane.
Mr. Byrd is also well-known for his work as an instructor at Howard University where he taught music and founded the popular 70’s group comprised of some of his students called The Blackbyrds. It was easy for me and many others to transition from the sophisticated compositions of Professor Byrd’s earlier work to the soul-funk foundations of Blackbyrds’ pieces like ‘Walking in Rhythm’.
I understand that Mr. Byrd’s work has been sampled by many contemporary artists. I look forward to researching and listening to these samples. I saw Donald Byrd live in Boston. Also, one time while I was attending a show at Yoshi’s, a popular jazz spot in Oakland, California, Mr. Byrd was hanging out in the audience. He always presented as relatively humble and real.
In the African American and world tradition of jazz, the practitioners are honored as much more than just show men and women or entertainers. Rather, jazz practitioners are seen as griots; storytellers; historians; healers; medicine men and women; and the wise people of our tribe. It would stand to reason that we would honor their existence, their contributions and at last, their passing.
For Linda Tauhid’s Journal
February 8, 2013