Trumpeter Donald Byrd lent his intoxicating sounds to musicians as heady as John Coltrane to contemporary masters such as Tupac. And when you consider the artists that either sampled Byrd’s work or outright had him blow his trumpet on their creations, Byrd’s reach in hip hop, jazz, fusion, and funk is prolific.
I’m sad to say that this grand master of music, Donald Byrd has passed away.
Byrd represented home to me. Every time I hear recordings like “You and Music,” “Change: Makes You Wanna Hustle,” “Places and Spaces,” “Wind Parade,” “Rock Creek Park” (this one takes me to D.C.), “Steppin’ Into Tomorrow,” I think of the faces and spaces of my friends and time in Delaware. And so it’s fitting I guess, that Byrd died in Delaware. In 2009, Delaware State University named Byrd as a distinguished artist-in-residence, and I know he lent his musical knowledge and passion to the music students at the school during his tenure there. He also developed a “Music is Math is Art” education program that he has introduced to young people across the country.
Dr. Byrd drew a parallel between his life and the life of world famous jazz trumpeter Clifford Brown, an influential 1950s Wilmington, Del.-born musician who attended Delaware State College.
“Like my father I never drank or smoked…. Clifford Brown didn’t drink or smoke,” Dr. Byrd said. “This school (Delaware State) is outstanding, and here I am just trying to follow in Brownie's footsteps.”
Dr. Byrd, thank you for your vivid and moving sounds that whirl around in my head from time to time and make me feel all the comforts of home.
Read more about Byrd in London’s The Guardian:
I was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Delaware (Wilmington area). I'm a mother, writer, performer, director, editor, and teacher. I love books, film, performance art, the visual arts, and my beautiful daughter.