Famed Jazz Trumpeter Donald Byrd Dies at 80

Donald Byrd | Photo Credits: Rick Diamond/WireImage

Donald Byrd, one of the most well-known jazz trumpeters of the 1950s, died Feb. 4 at a hospital in Delaware, The Washington Post reports. He was 80.

A spokeswoman for Haley Funeral Directors in Southfield, Mich., confirmed the death, but no cause was given. Reports of Byrd's death had been circulating on the Internet for the last week. Alex Bugnon, a jazz musician close to Byrd's family wrote, "I have no more patience for this unnecessary shroud of secrecy placed over his death by certain members of his immediate family," in a Facebook entry not long after Byrd's passing.

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Born in Detroit in 1932, Byrd quickly became one of the signature instrumental voices of the hard-bop jazz movement with the release of his first album in 1955. He quickly became in demand, and appeared on 36 recordings in 1957 alone.

After recording with the likes of John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk, Byrd began teaching at Howard University in 1968, where he led the university's jazz band and developed a program of black music studies. He went on to teach at many other colleges including Rutgers University, Delaware State University and the University of Delaware.

During the late 1960s, Byrd also branched out from acoustic jazz to explore the more amplified styles of funk and R&B music. In 1973, his album Black Byrd sold more than one million copies and he also enjoyed several top 20 R&B hits with his jazz-funk group, the Blackbyrds.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Byrd delved into rap music, and his trumpets solos were featured on songs by Public Enemy, Nas and Erykah Badu. In 2000, he was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, the country's highest honor for jazz musicians and he continued to perform into his late 70s.

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