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  Blackbyrds
 

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Click below for a Blackbyrds sample:

Happy Music

 

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The Blackbyrds were the culmination of Donald Byrd's desire to get young African-Americans into jazz by incorporating the genre's aesthetics into funk.  From his teaching base at Howard University, Byrd took his best students - Kevin Toney (keyboards), Joe Hall (bass), Barney Perry (guitar), Allan Barnes (reeds) and Keith Killgo (drums) - and organized them as the Blackbyrds.

After schooling them in the rigors of being professional musicians, Byrd arranged a contract with Fantasy Records, where they would spend their entire career.  Acting as their mentor and producer, Byrd's presence gave them an instant credibility few other new acts could claim. Their second LP, Flying Start, contained the first of their many hit records, "Walking In Rhythm," a top 5 single. 

At the time, the Blackbyrds' combination of jazz and funk was a pioneering blend, and they found themselves annointed as leaders of the more accessible side of fusion, almost as a more mellow alternative to Kool and the Gang.  The group's popularity showed in their sales, as many of their LPs went gold and 11 of their singles made the charts, making them Fantasy's most profitable act. 

With their confidence growing with each top-selling album, the Blackbyrds began to see themselves as a top-flight act in their own right and severed their ties to Donald Byrd after 1977's Action.  It was a bit of an odd decision, considering their formula had been heavily influenced by Byrd, and they would record only one more album before breaking up in 1981.  In the last decade individual members have released solo albums and together they have reunited for some concerts with Byrd.  Perhaps there's hope that they'll soon make a formal comeback.  

Blackbyrds' Deepest Grooves

Blackbyrds (Fantasy, 1974)
Praise from Roberta Flack on the cover and "Do It Fluid" in the groove.

Flying Start (Fantasy, 1974)

City Life (Fantasy, 1975)
For many, the most satisfying Blackbyrds release.  It was definitely their best seller, thanks to the massive "Rock Creek Park" and "Happy Music," two hard-hitting dance cuts that you'll still hear on the radio.

Cornbread, Earl & Me (Fantasy, 1975)
Like many of their commercial counterparts, the Blackbyrds jumped at the opportunity to do soundtrack work.  This project was split with Donald Byrd and recently reissued.

Unfinished Business (Fantasy, 1976)
With "Time Is Moving On," one of my favorite boogie songs from the mid 70s. 

Action (Fantasy, 1977)
Last decent LP.  With "Mysterious Vibes," a song everybody knows has been sampled but nobody can name the artist, and "Dreaming About You," which begins with a nice drum break.

Night Life - Blair (Solar Sound, 1978)
Guitarist Barney "Blair" Perry stepped out with this independent LP. Best known for the title cut, a jazz-funk favorite on both sides of the Atlantic.

Better Days (Fantasy, 1980)

Greatest Hits (Fantasy, 1990s)

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