Blue Note Records has announced the first-ever official release of Donald Byrd’s Live: Cookin’ with Blue Note at Montreux on what would have been the legendary trumpeter’s 90th birthday: December 9, 2022.
The dynamic 1973 live set is available for pre-order now on the Blue Note Store website in exclusive blue vinyl, black vinyl, CD, and digital download. The vinyl release is all-analog cut directly from the original analog master tapes. To celebrate the announcement, “Black Byrd” is out today as a digital single.
In July 1973, Blue Note Records headed to Montreux, Switzerland to showcase several of the label’s stars at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Produced by Blue Note President George Butler, live albums all titled Live: Cookin’ with Blue Note at Montreux followed from vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, organist Ronnie Foster, flutist Bobbi Humphrey, and vocalist Marlena Shaw, but one of the performances by trumpeter Donald Byrd remained unreleased in the Blue Note vaults, until now.
That summer, Byrd was fresh off the release of his hit crossover fusion album Black Byrd, the first of his innovative and incredibly successful studio collaborations with producer Larry Mizell.
But in a live setting the band had a rawer, harder edge, as this searing set attests. Byrd led a 10-piece band that included Larry Mizell on synthesizers, Fonce Mizell on trumpet and vocals, Allan Barnes on tenor saxophone and flute, Nathan Davis on soprano and tenor saxophone, Kevin Toney on electric piano, Barney Perry on electric guitar, Henry Franklin on electric bass, Keith Killgo on drums, and Ray Armando on congas and percussion. The set list includes Larry Mizell’s tune “Black Byrd” along with otherwise unrecorded Byrd originals like “The East,” “Kwame,” and “Poco-Mania,” as well as an excellent cover of Stevie Wonder’s “You’ve Got It Bad Girl.”
Larry Mizell: “My brother Fonce and I were invited by Blue Note Records (President George Butler and Donald Byrd) to travel with the Blue Note artist roster to attend and perform at the 1973 Montreux Jazz Festival. At the time, Donald Byrd’s Black Byrd album was a big success for Blue Note, along with Bobbi Humphrey’s Blacks and Blues. The American Airlines plane was playing various cuts from Black Byrd as part of the cabin music. The plane ride over was fun, energetic, and wild.”
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