Trumpeter Donald Byrd rides the New York Subway “A” Train line
Photo by William Claxton
At the time of this photo, Byrd — who was instrumental in launching the career of Herbie Hancock — was leading a band with baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams. This is the kind of music Byrd was creating the time of this photograph:
“Curro’s,” from the Byrd/Adams record Out of this World
Hancock said that Byrd “was the first person to let me be a permanent member of an internationally known band. He has always nurtured and encouraged young musicians. He’s a born educator, it seems to be in his blood, and he really tried to encourage the development of creativity.” Hancock’s Blue Note Records debut was on Byrd’s Royal Flush recording…Here is “Hush,” a track from that record:
In the 1970’s, Byrd was successful in combining jazz with the funk music that was popular at the time. His ensemble known as the “Blackbyrds” consisted of student-musicians from the Howard University program, where Byrd studied and taught during that time period. A piece you may recognize is “Happy Music,” which made it to #19 on the Billboard pop charts.
William Claxton was among the bebop generation’s most gifted and accomplished photographers. Among his career achievements are the classic portraits of trumpeter Chet Baker, the publication of Jazz Life, a book of his photos, and the publication of a book of photographs of the actor Steve McQueen. You can read his October, 2008 obituary here.