World of Jazz Podcast #16 – A Tribute to Donald Byrd

This weeks show was going to focus on the recently released set of Miles Davis Quintet live recordings from 1969 but following the sad news of the passing of the great trumpeter Donald Byrd it seemed appropriate to do a mix of his work.

Byrd was a leading hard-bop trumpeter in the mid-1950s, moving into post-bop in the 1960s and  who later became known for his blend of soul, funk and jazz fusion. Byrd’s influence has been more recently seen due to hip-hop artists e.g. A Tribe Called Quest, who have sampled his recordings. Whilst not recognised as one of the trumpet “greats” his body of work and his influence are notable.

With over 50 albums released as a leader and many more besides a member of bands like Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers it’s been difficult to select the music….. but i’ve tried to highlight the various phases of his career as a leader….as usual you can listen to the podcast at this link

  1. Elijah – A New Perspective – 1963 –  one of the most successful uses of a gospel choir in a jazz context.  Byrd and a septet that also includes  Hank Mobley,  Kenny Burrell, and Herbie Hancock are joined by an eight-voice choir directed by Coleridge Perkinson. The arrangements are by Duke Pearson. This is a memorable album and a milestone in Donald Byrd’s career.
  2. Boo-Lu – All Night Long – 1956 – ostensibly a Kenny Burrell album, however the cover co-credits him along-side Byrd, Jerome Richardson (who delivers a stunning solo), Hank Mobley, Mal Waldron, Doug Watkins and Art Taylor. A Burrell/Byrd composition.
  3. Duke’s Mixture – The Cat Walk – 1961 – Byrd  baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams worked together on several recordings between 1958 and 1961, and The Cat Walk   is among the best. A quintet setting, with pianist Duke Pearson, bassist Laymon Jackson, and the legendary Philly Joe Jones on drums. Another great Duke Pearson arrangement of his own tune.
  4. Jamie – Ethiopian Nights – 1972 – this album had the jazz purists frothing at the mouth – the rest of the album is dominated by funk in a Brown/Stone way but  this is a more considered piece.
  5.  Book’s Bossa – Slow Drag – 1967 – “Book” being Walter Booker of course. One of Byrd’s  final hard bop dates. The group in this instance is altoist Sonny Red, pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Walter Booker and drummer Billy Higgins. The album finds Byrd looking both backwards toward the blues and forwards toward modal music and hints of the avant-garde.
  6. I Got It Bad (and that ain’t good) – Mustang – 1967 –  from the same year as above and retaining Red and Booker, the rest of the band is Freddy Waits, McCoy Tyner and Hank Mobley. A lovely reading of the Ellington/Webster classic ballad.
  7. Loves So Far Away – Black Byrd – 1973 – like Ethiopian Nights this one had the purists howling in indignation. For all that ire this became the biggest-selling album in Blue Note history. Hard Bop well and truly ditched for a funky fusion. The roots of Miles Davis influence from Bitches Brew and On The Corner are here but this is an altogether more relaxed and easy listen as Byrd moves from the saturnine sound of Davis to his own brand of fusion.
  8. Eldorado – Black Jack – 1967 – the same band as the Slow Drag and the same year ……lovely solo from Mobley on this….
  9. Low Life – Fuego – 1959 – the last album where Blue Note paired Byrd with Jackie McLean. Shifting between hard bop and hard bop throughout the album the front men are served by the excellent trio of Duke Pearson, Lex Humphries and Doug Watkins.
  10. The Dude – Electric Byrd – 1970 – back to funky fusion with this one….Duke Pearson, again, does the arrangements, and the addition of Airto Moriera brings a south american  feel to the whole affair.
  11. Bo – Byrd In Flight – 1960 – his fourth album for Blue Note covered a couple of seperate sessions – this one features Jackie McLean along with Duke Pearson who wrote the tune. As usual with this run of albums the music covers the transition from hard bop to the more exploratory post bop style. There’s a loose pre-funky feel to this one which makes it something rather special.
  12. The Loud Minority – Kofi – 1971 – the album was garnered from some of last Blue Note sessions of the 1960s before Byrd’s ventures into soul fusion territory. The playing is marvellous , with the likes of  Ron Carter andAirto Moreira giving Byrd the space  to stretch out and get funky in a jazz context. Also featured are  Lew Tabackin and  Frank Foster. One of the essential albums.
  13. Down Tempo – At The Races – 1958 – Working with an accomplished supporting band of Jackie McLean, Wynton Kelly, Pepper Adams, Sam Jones, and Art Taylor(drums) this isone of his strongest recordings of the 1950s. Byrd switches between hard bop, ballads, laid-back blues, and soul-jazz to create a timeless feel.
  14. Stepping Into Tomorrow – Stepping Into Tomorrow – 1975 – Byrd’s work with Larry Mizell as exemplified on this album, was a lot more complex than many thought. The arrangements are tight, the multiple layers of vocals and instrumentation belie the impression that this was merely cop show funk. Interesting I think that Byrd drew this style from Miles Davis early ’70s work only for Miles to pick up on it himself when he returned from his sabbatical.


World of Jazz Radio Show – 6th September 2012

Featured artist this week is local bass player – Gavin Barras

Listen to the show here

The music played is:

1 Gavin Barras Quintet Inabit Day of Reckoning
2 Randy Weston Ifrane Blue Moses
3 Donald Byrd Mr Thomas Black Byrd
4 Gavin Barras Quintet Back In Seven Day of Reckoning
5 Samarai Celestial Sun Ra (edit version) Isis Sun
6 Lionel Loueke Freedom Dance Heritage
7 Gavin Barras Quintet Pathway Day of Reckoning
8 McCoy Tyner I Thought I’d Let You Know Expansions
9 Bennetrhodes Body Electric Sun Ya

World of Jazz – 19th July 2012

On this weeks show – which you can listen to here……

1 Stan Getz and Bill Evans Night and Day Stan Getz and Bill Evans
2 Bugge Wesseltoft Black Pearl Makes Dream IM
3 Dinah Washington Caravan Swingin’ Miss D
4 Duke Ellington and Coleman Hawkins The Jeep Is Jumpin’ Duke Ellington meets Coleman Hawkins
5 Billie Holiday What A Little Moonlight Can Do Stay With Me
6 Woody Shaw Zoltan Love Dance
7 Woody Shaw and Freddie Hubbard Desert Moonlight Double Take
8 Freddie Hubbard Byrdlike Rollin’
9 Donald Byrd Bup A Loup Fuego
10 John Coltrane Dearly Beloved Sun Ship

World of Jazz – 29th March 2012

This weeks show features two bands that played at Manchester’s Band on the Wall on the evening of the broadcast…..

Before he reached eighteen, Ambrose Akinmusire had already performed with a string of acclaimed musicians including Joe Henderson, Joshua Redman and Steve Coleman. He’s since gone on to play in the bands of Herbie Hancock, Jason Moran and Wayne Shorter and has won acclaim from the likes of Quincy Jones and Hugh Masekela for his playing. London’s Ronnie Scott’s was bursting at the seams for the blazing premiere of his Blue Note debut When The Heart Emerges Glistening, which offers a powerful exercise in intelligent interplay and subtle melodic development, and the exhilarating performance garnered five star reviews in both the Guardian and Financial Times.   Heralded as “a major creative figure in the making” (Jazzwise) and comparable “with some of the biggest names in African-American  jazz, Miles Davis included” (Guardian), Akinmusire is quickly becoming one of the most exciting, fresh and striking figures on today’s jazz  scene.

Robert Mitchell who, since his recording debut a decade ago, has become one of the most creative pianists on the British jazz scene. He features here  his trio, 3io, with  Mitchell on piano with bassist Tom Mason and drummer Richard Spaven. The band deliver unlikely covers alongside powerful new material as they find inspiration from all great music regardless of genre and generate a wonderful tension, and excitement from pulling the music into trio clothing!

In between there is new music from Bill King and Roy Assaf with a couple of classics from Miles Davis and Donald Byrd.

Listen here

1 Ambrose Akinmusire Confessions to my unborn daughter When the heart emerges glistening
2 Robert Mitchell 3io Third Stream The Embrace
3 Bill King The Gambler and the Riverboat Queen Gloryland
4 Ambrose Akinmusire Regret (No More) When the heart emerges glistening
5 Robert Mitchell 3io A Tear (For Now) The Embrace
6 Donald Byrd Gate City Byrd in Flight
7 Ambrose Akinmusire Tear Stained Suicide Manifesto When the heart emerges glistening
8 Robert Mitchell 3io Rockers Round Window The Embrace
9 Roy Assaf Hymn to Freedom Respect
10 Miles Davis Round Midnight Round About Midnight

World of Jazz – 15th March 2012

On this show we have classic jazz cuts with a brand new track from Dave Shank – listen here

1 Stan Getz & Luis Bonfa O Morro Nao Tem Vez Jazz Samba Encore!
2 Art Taylor Epistrophy A.T.s Delight
3 Bill Evans Polka Dots and Moonbeams California Here I Come
4 Sonny Red Stay as Sweet As You Are Out of the Blue
5 Donald Byrd Dixie Lee Mustang!
6 Paul Chambers What’s New The Paul Chambers Quintet
7 Thelonious Monk Crespescule With Nellie Criss Cross
8 Dave Shank A Minor Distraction Soundproof
9 J.J. Johnson Groovin’ The Eminent Volume 2
10 Miles Davis Fran Dance Kind of Blue 50th Anniversary Edition

World of Jazz – 4th August 2011

This show looks at the work of Stuart McCallam – Manchester guitarist and member of the Cinematic Orchestra – and touches on the vibraphone in jazz, and the great drummer Art Taylor :

  • Donald Byrd – When Your Love Has Gone – Off to the Races :   Donald Byrd – one of the finest hard bop trumpeters of the post-Clifford Brown era – recorded prolifically as both a leader and sideman from the mid-’50s into the mid-’60s, mostly for the Blue Note lable, where he established himself  as a solid stylist with a clean tone, and a good melodic ear. This 1958 album proved to be one of his best sessions and with a brilliant supporting band of  — Jackie McLean (alto sax), Wynton Kelly (piano), Pepper Adams(baritone sax), Sam Jones (bass), Art Taylor (drums) — Byrd turns in one of his strongest recordings of the era.
  • Stuart McCallam – Lament for Levenshulme – Distilled : Manchester guitarist and composer Stuart McCallum is best known for his work with Cinematic Orchestra. The distinctive, ethereal and atmospheric sound of his guitar has been at the heart of their sound since 2004, including on the albums ‘Ma Fleur’ and ‘Live At The Royal Albert Hall’ and the award winning soundtrack ‘The Crimson Wing’. His own music influenced by jazz and DJ Culture is a distillation of many influences, creating a sound that is concentrated and distinctive. McCallum who admits to influences from Wes Montgomery to Bjork, Flying Lotus to Bon Iver and James Blake to Bill Frisell, as well as modern art, eschews over complicated harmonic and rhythmical structures in favour of a rich mix of electronica and improvisation enriched by elegant orchestral writing. Distilled, McCallum’s brilliant third album, and first for new label Naim, is a culmination of the music he has written over the last few year and the idea of ‘distillation’ is right at the heart of how the record was written. McCallum ‘sampled’ the best bits of his compositions, using them as the basis for further writing, before again sampling the results, and so on, until arriving at the perfectly distilled version of what he wanted to say. The result is a sublime slice of ambient-jazz-electonica with beautiful melodies and gorgeous soundscapes. But it isn’t just the process, McCallum’s own music is ‘distilled’: simple, memorable and melodic, minimalist and repetitive like modern dance music. His music owes as much to dance music as it does jazz. McCallum’s music thrives in the spaces between genres and on Distilled the improvisation is part of the compositional process. But it’s his use of technology that helps give the music its unique sound, be it looped instruments, samples, or his ethereal guitar McCallum utilises technology to create unique soundscapes, that are in equal part performance, composition and improvisation. It will be released on October 3rd.
  • Cinematic Orchestra – As the stars fall – Ma Fleur : led by composer/programmer/multi-instrumentalist Jason Swinscoe, this band merges modern urban dance, with jazz and cinematic music with great effect -this, the first album to feature Stuart McCallam, comprises a series of moody, evocative pieces.
  • Cal Tjader – Hip Vibrations – Hip Vibrations :  Cal Tjader recorded frequently for Verve during the 1960s, and this is one of his more unusual sessions. Instead of fronting his regular Latin group he plays arrangements by Benny Golson or Bobby Bryant, accompanied a band that includes Ernie Royal, Marvin Stamm, J.J. Johnson, Jerome Richardson, Mel Lewis, with either Ron Carter or Richard Davis on bass, and three different pianists: Herbie Hancock, Patti Bown, or John Bunch.
  • Bobby Hutcherson – Maiden Voyage -Happenings : Bobby Hutcherson’s first quartet album features the vibraphonist’s soloing abilities, matching him  with pianist Herbie Hancock, drummer Joe Chambers, and bassist Bob Cranshaw. An interesting reading of Hancock’s tune is the centre-piece to a fine album.
  • Art Taylor – Cookoo and Fungi – AT’s Delight : Although Taylor was one of the busiest modern second-generation jazz drummers, working in the studio with Coleman Hawkins, Donald Byrd, John Coltrane and many others, he only released five albums under his own name, of which this was the third. Conga player Carlos “Patato” Valdes joins Taylor and pianist Wynton Kelly and bassist Paul Chambers on three cuts including this calypso.  The horn men  are Stanley Turrentine on tenor sax and Dave Burns on trumpet.
  • Stuart McCallam – Distilled – Distilled : the album features McCallum on guitars and sampler alongside bassists Ira Coleman and Robin Mullarkey, harpist Rachel Gladwin (best known in the jazz world for her work with Matthew Halsall), drummer Dave Walsh, legendary Manchester based percussionist Chris Manis and Iain Dixon on woodwinds.
  • The Cinematic Orchestra – Transformation – Les Ailes Pourpres : from the songtrack to a Disney film about Flamingoes.
  • John Coltrane with the Red Garland Trio – Soft Lights and Sweet Music : For his second album, John Coltrane (tenor saxophone) joined forces with his Prestige labelmate Red Garland (piano)  supported by a rhythm section of Paul Chambers (bass) and Art Taylor (drums) with this exquisite version of an Irving Berlin classic.
  • Dexter Gordon – Shiny Stockings – Gettin’ Around : Dexter spent the  mid-’60s period living in Europe coming back to the U.S. for the occasional recording session. His teaming with Bobby Hutcherson on this session was interesting in that at that time  the vibraphonist was already marking his territory as a maverick and challenging improviser – so how would this sit with Gordon’s traditional approach? Fear not –  the two principals prove compatible- they have a shared vision on what to deliver. Add the brilliant Barry Harris to this mix, plus Bob Cranshaw and Billy Higgins and you have a bit of a classic.
Click on the link to hear the show…..