Donald Byrd

Byrd in Flight

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By the time of this fourth Blue Note album by trumpeter Donald Byrd, it became clear that his playing was becoming stronger with the passing of time. Byrd in Flight features separate studio sessions from January and July of 1960 with constants Duke Pearson on piano and drummer Lex Humphries. Bassists Doug Watkins and Reggie Workman split duties six tracks to three, as do tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley and alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, making for some interesting sonic combinations, although Byrd is the dominant voice. Several of these selections are penned by Byrd, but it is pianist Pearson who contributes four of the most potent compositions on Byrd in Flight, supplying the wings for these quintet recordings to take off. Of the Pearson originals, "Gate City," with Mobley, is an attractive soul shuffle with a basic tandem line played one time through; "Bo," with Byrd and McLean, is a singing, easy blues, and "My Girl Shirl" is an all-Byrd-led bopper with McLean in late and a brief Latin break. Byrd's "Ghana," dedicated to that country's liberation, is not so much Afrocentric as it is a hip modal Afro-Cuban-to-hard bop streaker in an assertive tone. "Lex" is typical hard bop fare, with the tenor saxophonist and trumpeter going to town, while a supreme version of the ballad standard "Little Boy Blue" has the ever present Pearson and Byrd in slow musical repast about lost opportunities, primed by the sultry bass playing of Workman.

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