THE BLACKBYRDS

Funk Jazz / Jazz Related Soundtracks / Funk • United States
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The Blackbyrds was a rhythm and blues and jazz-funk fusion group, formed in Washington, D.C. in 1973.

The group was led by trumpeter Donald Byrd and featured some of his Howard University students: Kevin Toney (keyboards), Keith Killgo (vocals, drums), Joe Hall (bass guitar), Allan Barnes (saxophone, clarinet), and Barney Perry (guitar). Orville Saunders (guitar), and Jay Jones (flute, saxophone) were later members of the group. They signed to Fantasy Records in 1973. They are best known for their 1975 hit "Walking in Rhythm", which received a Grammy nomination.

Their 1975 song "Rock Creek Park" from the City Life album has been sampled numerous times by groups such as De La Soul, Eric B. & Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, NWA, Massive Attack, Ice Cube, Heavy D, Nas and Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five. The song has also appeared on the soundtrack to the popular video game Grand Theft Auto:
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THE BLACKBYRDS Discography

THE BLACKBYRDS albums / top albums

THE BLACKBYRDS The Blackbyrds album cover 4.00 | 3 ratings
The Blackbyrds
Funk Jazz 1974
THE BLACKBYRDS Flying Start album cover 3.91 | 3 ratings
Flying Start
Funk Jazz 1974
THE BLACKBYRDS Cornbread, Earl And Me album cover 2.75 | 2 ratings
Cornbread, Earl And Me
Jazz Related Soundtracks 1975
THE BLACKBYRDS City Life album cover 3.83 | 3 ratings
City Life
Funk Jazz 1975
THE BLACKBYRDS Unfinished Business album cover 3.02 | 3 ratings
Unfinished Business
Funk 1976
THE BLACKBYRDS Action album cover 2.25 | 2 ratings
Action
Funk Jazz 1977
THE BLACKBYRDS Better Days album cover 3.25 | 2 ratings
Better Days
Funk Jazz 1980
THE BLACKBYRDS Gotta Fly album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Gotta Fly
Funk Jazz 2012

THE BLACKBYRDS EPs & splits

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THE BLACKBYRDS demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

THE BLACKBYRDS re-issues & compilations

THE BLACKBYRDS Night Grooves album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Night Grooves
Funk Jazz 1978
THE BLACKBYRDS The Beat on Blackbyrds album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Beat on Blackbyrds
Funk Jazz 1988
THE BLACKBYRDS City Life / Unfinished Business album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
City Life / Unfinished Business
Funk Jazz 1994
THE BLACKBYRDS The Best Of album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Best Of
Funk Jazz 1999
THE BLACKBYRDS The Blackbyrds & Charles Earland : At The Movies album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Blackbyrds & Charles Earland : At The Movies
Jazz Related Soundtracks 2001
THE BLACKBYRDS Walking in Rhythm: The Essential Selection 1973-1980 album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Walking in Rhythm: The Essential Selection 1973-1980
Funk Jazz 2013

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THE BLACKBYRDS Reviews

THE BLACKBYRDS Flying Start

Album · 1974 · Funk Jazz
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Donald Byrd was not only one of the top jazz trumpeteers of the 60s and beyond, but also a music professor at Howard University and one of those talented individuals who could foresee upcoming musical trends and capitalize on them. Sometime in the early 70s, Donald recruited some of the top local talent for his university jazz ensemble and then figured if he could get these guys in a recording studio and on the road he could have a top notch jazz/RnB group on his hands, and so it came to pass that the Blackbyrds came to be. “Flying Start” was actually the Blackbyrd’s second album, but possibly the first one where they developed their own identity outside of Byrd’s well known persona and finds them working within their familiar territory of funk jazz and proto-disco RnB. The Blackbyrd’s early albums are their best, and “Flying Start” is no exception as it features super hot funky grooves and plenty of top notch jazz solos from the band members, plus horn work from some famous guests including Ernie Watts and George Bohanon.

Almost every track on here is good with some standouts including the supercharged disco funk of “I Need You”, possibly one of the best songs in its genre before disco became watered down and lost its funk roots. “Future Children, Future Hopes” and “Spaced Out” are instrumentals with extensive solos on the then newish Arp Odyssey. The Donald Byrd composed “The Baby” features sophisticated flute arrangements that show what he learned from his time working with Quincy Jones. Possibly the only weak track is the pop love song, “April Showers”, but even it can be endearing in its naïve saccharine sweetness. Any fan of 70s funk jazz, rare groove and the roots of acid jazz should own this one.

THE BLACKBYRDS Unfinished Business

Album · 1976 · Funk
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The Blackbyrd’s music ranged from funk jazz to dance grooves for the disco, but in their hands such different styles sounded unified and almost identical due to the Byrd’s ultra smooth, yet relentless groove that drove every song they did. Sometimes referred to as a proto-disco band, the Byrd’s didn’t have the heavy thud of the later disco trend, but their subtle implied four on the floor beat could fill the dance floors in the mid-70s. The rhythm section of Joe Hall on bass with Keith Killgo on drums was poetry in motion that floated like a butterfly while laying a solid groove for the icing on the cake, Orville Saunders’ driving repetitive chicken scratch guitar parts that grab you and never let go. Make no mistake, “Unfinished Business” is music for the dance floor, but there are also plenty of great jazz solos from folks like Ernie Watts and Ray Parker for those who just want to listen.

There are a couple of standout cuts on here that may be of interest to the collector of exotic rare groove; “Enter In” features a lengthy solo on an old analog synth that struggles to stay in tune while fighting against an extra thick coating of reverb, nice kitsch value on that one, and album closer “Unfinished Business” is excellent instrumental funk jazz with a killer guitar riff backed by a pretty repeating melody on the vibraphone and topped with a funky sax solo. Probably the best cut on the album though is the opener “Time is Movin”, once again Saunders’ guitar riffing is the star and the rest of the band falls in step while keyboardist Kevin Tony plays a hot solo on the B3. Throwing a party? Get rid of those tired old hits and put this on instead, your guests will thank you.

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