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You can call it the pre-cursur to contemporary jazz. You can call it selling out. Or you can refer to the Donald Byrd album entitled Black Byrd an album that revolutionized the sound of fusion jazz, as it’s sound was (and still is being) duplicated. Black Byrd was recorded in 1972, which was a bit earlier than other jazz fusion albums with a head nodding, driving 4/4 beat. This album was danceable, as it was one of Blue Note Records most popular releases, and as you could guess, it’s success received a lot of flack from Byrd’s contemporaries. But it took someone like Donald Byrd to release a “pop” album. Someone like Byrd, who was already an esteemed jazz personality, someone who has played with people like John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Lionel Hampton, and other greats who could easily validate the musical stylings of Byrd, no matter which direction he turned. This album was the beginning of the Mizell Brothers, who’s production not only shaped Donald Byrd’s sound in the 70’s, but had a hand in the careers of many other jazzy, funky, soulful sounds from people like Bobbi Humphrey, Michael Jackson, Johnny Hammond, and many more. Even the name of the album set a precedence, as this album title would (knowingly or coincidentally) later introduced Donald Byrd’s group The Black Byrds, the disco funk group that had a brilliant career of their own.

The songs have been sampled, and the sound has been emulated. Its combination blend of R&B and jazz, with elements of funk and disco is one of a kind, and the fact that it was recorded on the esteemed Blue Note jazz label in 1972 makes it revolutionary. 40 years later, this album is still a magnificent listen, and it has been an in inspiration to many, whether they realize it or not.


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Written by @Haylow

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