The Blackbyrds

Greatest Hits

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When Donald Byrd embraced soul and funk in the 1970s, some jazz players and critics didn't hesitate to lambast the trumpeter and label him a sellout. But while it's always sad to see a great improviser put his improvisatory skills on the back burner, the fact is that many of the Byrd's more commercially successful recordings were highly creative. Like Byrd's own '70s dates, the albums he produced for the Blackbyrds are best described as soul and funk with jazz overtones. Anyone who seriously followed the Black music scene of the mid-1970s has heard many of the songs on this CD, which range from the dreamy "Walking In Rhythm" to invigorating funk hits like "Happy Music," "Do It Fluid" and "Rock Creek Park" (a suggestive gem that many rappers have sampled). The jazz influence is especially strong on the instrumental "Gut Level" and the peaceful "Summer Love," which has slightly Pharoah Sanders-ish qualities. But it must be stressed that this band had more to offer from an R&B standpoint than a jazz standpoint. For lovers of '70s R&B, this is a collection to savor.

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