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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Record Collecting: Donald Byrd - Step High

Donald Byrd - Step High
UpFront, 1976 (?)
Producer unknown

Features Bunky Green, Winton Kelly, Johnny Coles, Duke Pearson, Waler Perkins, and Bob Cranshaw

Not a whole lot of information on this album. I was confused by the fact that most of the info I could find said the album was released in 1976 but it sounded like Hard Bop era Byrd. What gives? By '76 he had already released Black Byrd, Street Lady, Stepping Into Tomorrow, and Places and Spaces, which all had his trademarked funky fusion sound. How did this album exist during that time sounding like something he would have done from the early 60s?

Well from what I could gather when Vee-Jay records filed for bankruptcy in 1966 they began licensing the rights to some of their masters. Springboard International bought some and released this material under a subsidiary label, UpFront. Think about it. Byrd had released four hit albums with this new sound he created. Black Byrd is Blue Note's biggest selling album of all time. Springboard International had some masters that featured Donald Byrd - probably hired as a side man for the session (the last song on the album is a piano solo. Byrd doesn't even play.) - so they slap his name on it and release an album during his peak. I bet many of the people who bought this were disappointed. But I like it. I happen to like both the bop and the fusion Donald Byrd.

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