It wasn’t long after Donald Byrd landed in New York City in 1955 that he began playing jazz trumpet with some of the greats–among them John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Max Roach–soon becoming one of the pivotal performers of the then new hard bop. But his most popular album, 1973’s Black Byrd, was panned by critics, who shuddered at its intermingling of jazz and pop. He shot back, “I’m creative. I’m not recreative. I don’t follow what everybody else does.” A devoted educator, Byrd, who died Feb. 4 at 80, taught for decades at Howard University and other schools, where he molded a new generation of jazz musicians even as he advanced the art itself.
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