Donald Byrd – Kofi


When you assume you make an ass out of you…but mostly me.

Months ago, I drew up plans to complete the renovations on my condo with the goal of moving my girlfriend in.  It was a simple plan that involved expanding my closet to a walk in closet, remodeling my bathroom and updating the fixtures, and finally opening up storage space in my attic.  See, certain units in my building have a roof area over part of them that isn’t used.  I made the assumption that mine was one of those units.

I was wrong.

My friend Brian and I carved a hole in my wall in an attempt to see how much space was back there…but we hit a wall.  Literally, a plaster wall.  It was then that Brian suggested we venture onto the roof to see for ourselves what was on the other side of the wall.

The answer?  Open sky and my AC unit.  No attic.

I guess a hole in my wall is a small price to pay, but I guess next time I should investigate more before cutting into the wall.  Shit, you could even see the roof space on Google maps.

Another assumption you should never make is that all the best music from old artists has already been released, as is the case with this week’s pick – trumpeter Donald Byrd’s “Kofi.” 

Back in the 90’s Blue Note Records and EMI collaborated on a reissue series called Blue Note Rare Groove.  I had picked up a couple of these recordings, many unreleased, and was really impressed with the quality of both the recordings and the material.  This was some prime shit right here!  Unfortunately, most of those CDs are now out of print…although a patient selecta can still grab a copy if you look around.

Byrd was born in Detroit and attended The Cass Technical High School where he soon found himself jamming with Lionel Hampton.  After a stint in the Air Force, he got his bachelors (at Wayne State) and then masters degree in music from The Manhattan School of Music.  While getting his masters, he joined a little group called The Jazz Messengers, led by Art Blakely. Word.

In 1956 though, he left the Messengers and started jamming with all the heavy hitters in the jazz world.  Cats like Coltrane, Monk, and Herbie Hancock. It was during this period that he began to excel at a new brand of jazz called hard-bop, an extension of the Be-Bop style. This sound propelled Byrd all through the sixties until he reached the seventies and began to drift towards a new collaboration of jazz-fusion.  “Kofi” uniquely captures this moment in his career perfectly.

Culled from two separate recording sessions, one in 1969 and the other in 1970, “Kofi” finds Byrd straddling two worlds.  The first two tracks ‘Kofi’ and ‘Fufu’ are pure sixties hard bop, modal jazz and with help from his backing musicians Byrd creates pure magic with the best tracks on the album.  Notably different are the last three songs recorded in 1970.  ‘Perpetual Love,’ “Elmina’ and ‘The Loud Minority’ are proto acid jazz.  Moody and full of funky flavor.

If you’ve never heard of Byrd, or just heard of him in passing and aren’t familiar with his solo work, this is a great piece to own.

Just don’t assume you already know.



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