DONALD BYRD — Caricatures (review)

DONALD BYRD — Caricatures album cover Album · 1976 · Funk Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
js
Donald Byrd’s career followed a trajectory similar to other artists who came up in the 60s, starting with hard bop and then moving through fusion, funk jazz and finally disco jazz. “Caricatures” is a little too funky for disco, but a little too disco to be funk jazz, an album in transition, it falls right between these two trends in 70s jazz. Heavily influenced by Herbie Hancock’s groundbreaking “Man-Child” album, the funk on “Caricatures” is tight and clean with an emphasis on a crisp compressed sound with lots of carefully placed orchestrated small interlocking rhythm parts. The difference being that Herbie quite wisely avoided the cliché disco-lite repeating vocal choruses that make “Caricatures” sound a lot more commercial and weakens what could have been a decent funk jazz album. If you don’t mind the vocals, then this is a nice funky dance album with lots of great solos from Byrd as well as an all-star cast of saxophone players.

There are a couple cuts where Byrd limits the singers and channels some of the great fusion he created in the early 70s. “Science Function” is a great piece of future-funk psychedelia with lots of analog synthesizer leads and a driving wah wah guitar. “Onward Til Morning” has a nice orchestrated melody and excellent sax leads, possibly from Gary Bartz or Ernie Watts. Overall this is a decent retro 70s slick party record with a highly polished sound, excellent musicianship and great solos spread liberally throughout.
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