Jazz great Donald Byrd is dead at age 80. There are no details available on his death at this time, only that he died back on Feb. 4, with his passing announced today. Byrd was a leading name in jazz in the 1950s and he joined many popular artists of his day to collaborate on records, according to Boston.com, on Monday Feb. 11, 2013.
He not only blew a mean trumpet, but he was a pioneer in jazz education. After playing with military bands, Byrd moved to New York in 1955. It was when Byrd joined Art Blakely’s Jazz Messengers in the same year that he came to New York, that he rose to national fame. He filled the seat left vacant by his idol Clifford Brown in the bebob group.
His trumpet playing was in demand in the New York scene, according to Boston.com, “he was one of the most in-demand trumpeters” during the mid 50s.
This is also about the time his recording career took off when he started recording on labels such as Savoy. It was in 1958 that he signed an exclusive recording contract with the Blue Note label and his newly formed band with Pepper Adams became a well-known hard-bop style group. “Off to the Races” was one of the big hits to come out of this band with baritone saxophonist, Adams.
Byrd played his trumpet through the 80s and 90s on the Landmark label with Kenny Garrett and Joe Henderson. In 2000, Byrd was recognized as a Jazz Master, by the National Endowment for the Arts, the nation’s highest jazz honor.