Donald Byrd, one of the greatest jazz trumpeters to ever blow a horn, died February 4. He was 80.
Byrd played with all the greats, from John Coltrane to Thelonious Monk, and he also served his apprenticeship in jazz's formemost school of swing, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Byrd wasn't Miles Davis. He wasn't that cool, wasn't that revolutionary of a music thinker. And he wasn't even Freddie Hubbard, another one of his contemporaries. Byrd could blow with the best of them, but few were as athletic on the horn as Freddie. Byrd, however, was still one of the baddest to ever do it.
His chief and most impactful contribution to contemporary music, however, is the abundance of material his recordings provided to hip-hop artists. LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Tupac, Nas, Pete Rock, J Dilla, The RZA — they all sampled Byrd. To this day, I still wonder what's the most sampled jazz album — Freddie's Red Clay or Byrd's Places and Spaces.
My favorite Byrd sample came via Evil D and Black Moon's repurposing of Bryd's "Wind Parade" for the "Buck Em Down" remix.
We lost a titan.