Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 8, 2013

Donald Byrd is dead

Filed under: music,obituary — louisproyect @ 2:47 pm

Legendary jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd has died, says nephew

Influential musician’s nephew reports that he died on Monday in Delaware, where he lived

David Batty
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 7 February 2013 20.01 EST

The influential jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd died on Monday at the age of 80, his nephew has said.

Alex Bugnon, a jazz pianist, reported his uncle’s death on Thursday, though it has yet to be confirmed.

Bugnon wrote on his own Facebook page: “Donald passed away Monday in Delaware, where he lived. His funeral will be held in Detroit sometime next week. I have no more patience for this unnecessary shroud of secrecy placed over his death by certain members of his immediate family.”

Byrd was born Donaldson Toussaint L’Ouverture Byrd II in Detroit in 1932 and began his career with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the 1950s, performing alongside the likes of John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk and Herbie Hancock.

While his roots were in bebop he later became equally renowned for soul and funk, and particularly jazz fusion. He went on to become one of jazz label Blue Note’s most significant artists, for whom he recorded most of his releases, including the 1973 album Black Byrd, which became the label’s biggest ever seller.

Long after his commercial peak, Byrd’s influence continued to be felt in popular music, sampled by hip-hop artists including Public Enemy, Nas, the Pharcyde and Del Tha Funkee Homosapien and house producer Armand Van Helden.

Byrd’s legacy is summed up by his nephew’s Facebook tribute: “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. 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!”


  1. He’s from Detroit. There may be something at Bert’s for him.

    Comment by charles — February 8, 2013 @ 7:36 pm

  2. Comment by charles — February 8, 2013 @ 7:38 pm

  3. “He’s from Detroit.” Almost correct: I saw him at the Watts Towers Festival maybe 25 years ago, and he said, “I’m from Destroy-It, Michigan… you gotta be from somewhere.”

    Comment by godoggo — February 8, 2013 @ 11:24 pm

  4. We still love him anyway. A prophet is honored in his hometown.

    Comment by c — February 8, 2013 @ 11:28 pm

  5. Incidentally, if I recall, that show as all about swinging. I’ve seen some comments that seem to imply that after some point he played only funk-oriented music (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but it’s not true. Also, the other thing I remember about that sow was I did a double take when he announced Bennie Maupin on sax, at a time that he rarely performed.

    Comment by godoggo — February 9, 2013 @ 8:28 pm

  6. Time to clean my keyboard.

    Comment by godoggo — February 9, 2013 @ 8:29 pm

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