CELEBRATING
50 YEARS

JazzTimes 10: Great Blue Note Tracks from the 1970s

Paying long-overdue tribute to the label’s most underappreciated era

6. Donald Byrd: “Think Twice” (from Stepping into Tomorrow, 1975)
When trumpeter Donald Byrd joined forces with brother producers Larry and Alphonso Mizell, it catapulted him to a stardom that infuriated many jazz purists. Some argued that his exemplary playing took a back seat to funky backbeats, R&B-leaning grooves, busy studio production, and husky singing. Make no mistake, though: If you drop this stepper’s groove joint in any soul and hip-hop set, all you’ve gotta do is watch folks get down. The popping percussion, sexy vocals, and haunting ARP strings mixed in with Byrd’s stabbing trumpet riffs and Gary Bartz’s piping hot alto saxophone solo all seemed designed for one purpose: to become a mainstay at black American cookouts nationwide. It’s no surprise that tons of hip-hop and soul icons—including A Tribe Called Quest, the Pharcyde, J Dilla, Large Professor, Peanut Butter Wolf, Pete Rock, and Erykah Badu—have bit off at least a piece of this seminal jazz-funk song.

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John Murph

John Murph is a Washington, D.C.-based music journalist and DJ. He’s written for numerous outlets that include JazzTimes, DownBeat, NPR Jazz, JazzWise, The Root, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic Monthly. He hosts a weekly radio program at Eaton Hotel DC.