Artist Profiles - Trumpeter Donald Byrd

Donaldson Toussaint L'Ouverture Byrd II was a jazz and rhythm and blues trumpeter. A sideman for many other jazz musicians of his generation, Byrd is best known as one of the only bebop jazz musicians who successfully pioneered the funk and soul genres while simultaneously remaining a jazz artist.

Byrd was born in Detroit, MI, in December 9, 1932. He performed with Lionel Hampton before finishing high school. After playing in a military band during a term in the United States Air Force, he obtained a bachelor's degree in music from Wayne State University and a master's degree from Manhattan School of Music. While still at the Manhattan School, he joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, as replacement for Clifford Brown. He performed with many jazz musicians of the day. Byrd's first regular group was a quintet that he co-led from 1958-61.

In the 1970s, Byrd moved away from hard-bop jazz and began to record jazz fusion and rhythm and blues. He teamed up with the Mizell Brothers for the album "Black Byrd" in 1973 and it became Blue Note Records' highest-ever selling album.  In 1973, he created The Blackbyrds, a fusion group consisting of his best students. They scored several major hits including "Happy Music", "Walking In Rhythm" and "Rock Creek Park". He taught at many universities, among them were Oberlin College & HBCU's Howard University, North Carolina Central University & Delaware State University.

Byrd died on February 4, 2013.