Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

JazzTimes 10: Essential Donald Byrd Recordings

Highlights from the catalog of an underrecognized trumpet great

10. Guru, “Loungin’” (Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1; Chrysalis, 1993)

“Yeah, I’m loungin’. I got my man Donald Byrd on the horn.” Jazzmatazz remains one of the most exciting developments in jazz during the 1990s: a hip-hop album featuring a rapper (that would be Guru) accompanied by a live jazz combo. Byrd’s is the first voice heard on the album, playing a repeated figure over Guru’s spoken introduction. He then plays two overdubbed trumpet lines—one open, one with a Harmon mute—on “Loungin’.” It’s low-key, mostly because Guru keeps both Byrd tracks at a lower volume than his own voice. Byrd gets fairly ornate, especially on the open track, in the second half of “Loungin’” (as always, in short, concise, but technically dazzling statements). To a great extent, though, it’s Byrd’s very presence that’s a pioneering achievement on Jazzmatazz. The dimensions of this “experimental fusion of hip-hop and jazz” are only now, more than a quarter-century later, being sorted out.

Check the price on Reverb!

Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.