12 January 2014

Donald Byrd Band & Voices - A New Perspective

Whilst I am not the biggest Jazz fan in the world, I will admit that every now and then I do look for a record to listen to.  Just something about the genre keeps me coming back for little bits of it at a time.  I blame my love of Frank Zappa and his odd time signatures, also by default I will have to blame our fellow blogger Chris Chaney as he is the person who got me into Zappa after I first heard it many moons ago on a John Peel show. However, this is a blog about Donald Byrd, who was an American jazz trumpeter who passed away in 2013.  Whilst mostly being known as a bebop jazz musician, he is also known for his work with in soul and funk music; he was also an influence on composer Herbie Hancock.  So to say that this man is an important figure in this genre is an understatement to say the least.  

The version of the album I am looking at has two extra tracks to the original five track release.  All of an instrumental nature but with some gospel chorus behind them, the album is an interesting choice for the blog as it is a subject we rarely look into.  Opening with "Elijah" you have nine minutes of hard bop which mixed with the harmony of the gospel chorus which would have the hardest soul swooning.  This is followed by the slow moving and gentle "Beast Of Burden" which has some fantastic trumpet work as you would expect from one of the original greats of the genre.  At over ten minutes in length it does go on a little bit, but when you lose yourself in the song it makes sense.  "Cristo Redentor" is the shortest track on the album at the half way point of the original release, and it does seem like an interlude.  The choir on this one does not make as much sense and sounds like a band 70's melodrama.  But the trumpet work again makes up for any misgiving to the rest of the work on this track.

"The Black Disciple" comes next with a much faster tempo to the music, jazz is sometimes not known for its easy going nature; but this song is one of the best examples of how easy jazz can be, even when you know it is complicated as hell.  It is not going to wild, but it is so easy to follow and be lost in the moments.  It is not all crazy time signatures; it is just music for the joy of it. It is music that can enrich the mind and the soul; also it has the best and most simple guitar solo I have heard for a long time.  It just seems to be dripping off the fingers of the player Kenny Burrell. The next song "Chant" which ended the original album is a beautiful number that ties the album up brilliantly.  Additional bonus tracks "Star Dust" with Pepper Adams and "Someone To Watch Over Me” are great little additions, especially "Star Dust", but they were not on a copy of this album I would not miss them.

For the forty plus minutes that the album plays I felt like I was brought to a different place.  The main body of the album is really clever, original and an obvious landmark album of the Hard Bop and Jazz music.  I will be honest and say that if you are not a fan of this type of music, no matter how well it is played you will find it hard to listen to (even though it is one of the easiest of the genres).  Yet I would say it is better than some of the other legendary album out there.  It is so subtle and with a gentleman reserve that makes it a beautiful place to be.  You need one try it once to see if it fits, but if it does I have a feeling it will be there in your bones for a long while.

8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Top track - The Black Disciple

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

There is no official page to the man, but here is the nearest thing

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

You can listen to the album on Deezer as well

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