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- Posted on Feb 7th 2013 6:37PM by Theo Bark
Michael Ochs Archives
According to a family member, the trumpet player and bandleader, born Donaldson Toussaint L'Ouverture Byrd II, died Monday, Feb 4., at the age of 80. His cause of death has not yet been disclosed.
Byrd's nephew, Alex Bugnon, also a jazz musician, revealed to Amoeba that his family had been attempting to hide Byrd's death.
"I have no more patience for this unnecessary shroud of secrecy placed over his death by certain members of his immediate family," Bugnon explained in an email.
Byrd was born in Detroit in 1932, and joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in 1956, performing on over 50 recordings by the likes of John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Kenny Burrell, Jackie McLean and Hank Mobley, before leading his own group in 1958.
Perhaps best known for his Mizell Brothers-produced 1973 LP Black Byrd, which at one point was Blue Note's highest-selling LP of all time, Byrd went on to score major hits with his R&B fusion group the Blackbyrds, including dance-floor favorite "Rock Creek Park" and "Walking in Rhythm."
Byrd's work spanned decades of jazz and funk, from bebop and soul to R&B, inspiring acid jazz and fusion, always progressive, always testing his limits.
When his output began to wind down, Byrd's music became even more relevant: He became an essential part of hip-hop's canon, sampled by everybody from De La Soul, Ice Cube and Tupac to house legend Armand Van Helden, and his sphere of influence became vaster still.
"Let's remember Donald as a one of a kind pioneer of the trumpet, of the many styles of music he took on, of music education," his nephew concluded in his statement to Amoeba. "In sum, Donald was an avid, eternal student of music, until his death. That's what I try to be, everyday!! Rest in peace, uncle!"