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JazzTimes 10: Essential Donald Byrd Recordings

Highlights from the catalog of an underrecognized trumpet great

4. Donald Byrd/Pepper Adams Quintet, “You’re Next” (Chant; Blue Note, 1979 [originally recorded April 17, 1961])

In addition to Blakey and Trane, Byrd recorded in the late ’50s with Sonny Rollins, Jackie McLean, Horace Silver, and Thelonious Monk, and co-founded the Jazz Lab quintet with Gigi Gryce. (He also kickstarted a solo career.) It was the 1958-62 quintet he co-led with baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams, though, that proved to be his artistic breakthrough. “You’re Next,” a Byrd original blues from a 1961 date (which happened to be the second-ever recording by Herbie Hancock, who counted Byrd as an early mentor), might have been an ideal tune for either the Blakey or Silver books. It’s the trumpeter who hits it out of the park, though, with a solo that’s a model of concision and scrupulous attention to detail (like callbacks to the written melody and, in each chorus, references to previous choruses). It inspired Adams to take a similar approach, albeit with a little bit more rhythmic oomph—an impressive demonstration of the leaders’ chemistry.

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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.