Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Donald Byrd, RIP

I don't know if it was a coincidence, or if they knew he was ill, but WKCR* featured Byrd for a full afternoon on their "Jazz Profiles" show on Sunday, Feb. 3.  It was a wonderful retrospective of his incredible career.  Byrd died the next day.

Almost from the day he arrived in New York City in 1955 from his native Detroit, Mr. Byrd was at the center of the movement known as hard bop, a variation on bebop that put greater emphasis on jazz’s blues and gospel roots. Known for his pure tone and impeccable technique, he performed or recorded with some of the most prominent jazz musicians of that era, including John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins and the drummer Art Blakey, considered one of jazz’s great talent scouts. As a bandleader, Mr. Byrd was sometimes a talent scout too — one of the first to hire a promising young pianist named Herbie Hancock, who, like Mr. Byrd, would later be called a renegade for an approach that won a wide audience but displeased many critics. 
* A station that desperately needs money to stay alive.

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