Influential jazz icon Donald Byrd died Monday at the age of 80. The trumpeter’s passing was confirmed by his nephew, Alex Bugnon, and the cause of death is undisclosed, reports U.K.’s The Guardian.
Reportedly, Byrd’s family had been trying to keep the entertainer’s death private, but Bugnon blew the lid off, and according to Billboard, publicly announced the passing, ”I have no more patience for this unnecessary shroud of secrecy placed over his death by certain members of his immediate family,” he wrote via Facebook and e-mails. He also revealed that Byrd lived in Delaware but that his funeral would be in Detroit.
Byrd was born December 9, 1932, in Motor City, Detroit. Even before he completed high school, the gifted musician played gigs with one of the country’s premier jazz vibraphonists Lionel Hampton. Not being one of those musicians whose studies take a back seat to their craft, Byrd managed to graduate from Wayne State University and receive a Master’s from the Manhattan School of Music.
Throughout his career, Byrd worked with musical icons, such as Art Blakely, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Thelonius Monk, and Herbie Hancock. In the ’70s, he formed the fusion group The Blackbyrds, and the group quickly spiraled up the music charts pumping out memorable R&B-meets-jazz hits, such as “Walking in Rhythm,” ”Rock Creek Park,” and “Happy Music.” Even though Byrd’s roots were in bebop, he later sashayed into soul and funk, particularly jazz fusion.
Byrd’s timeless body of work has inspired countless musicians right through modern-day artists, with dozens of his tracks being sampled by such hip-hop recording artists as Naughty By Nature, Nas, and Public Enemy.
Always the knowledge seeker, Byrd has taught at such prestigious educational institutions as Rutgers University, Howard University, Cornell University, and New York University, just to name a few. Even after obtaining his Master’s from the Manhattan School, Byrd added two more master’s from Columbia University. He also received a law degree and doctorate from Columbia University Teacher’s College.”
Bugnon had some parting words over his uncle’s death, and according to Billboard Magazine, he stated, ”Let’s remember Donald as a one-of-a-kind pioneer of the trumpet, of the many styles of music he took on, of music education,” Bugnon was quoted as concluding. ”In sum, Donald was an avid, eternal student of music until his death. That’s what I try to be, everyday!! Rest in peace, uncle!”
Byrd, you’ll be missed…RIP!