Donald Byrd: Catwalk (1961) Blue Note


Donald Byrd RIP.  Byrd’s nephew has reported his uncle Donald Byrd’s death, though it has yet to be confirmed.  Byrd was said to have died earlier this week, on Monday 4th February, 2013, at the age of 80, at his home in Delaware. He joins Dave Brubeck, and no doubt more players this year, in the burgeoning ranks of the Next Life Jazz Orchestra.

Track Selection: Say You’re Mine (Pearson)


Donald Byrd (t) Pepper Adams (bars) Duke Pearson (p) Laymon Jackson (b) Philly Joe Jones (d) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, May 2, 1961

Pepper Adams! Bari! Blue Note! More shriekmarks!!

Donald Byrd Selected Chronolgy: Byrd’s Eye View (1955); Off To The Races (1958); Byrd In Hand (1959); Fuego (1959); Byrd In Flight (1960);  At The Half Note Cafe (1960); The Cat Walk (1960); Royal Flush (1961); Free Form (1961); A New Perspective (1963); I’m Tryin’ To Get Home (1964); Mustang! (1966);  Blackjack (1967)…


digitalred1961-300An interesting  quintet setting in which Byrd’s sleek  and burnished trumpet is paired with Adams’ dry husky baritone, a perfect counterpoint, with Duke Pearson’s rich melodic structures powered along effortlessly by Philly Joe and Laymon Jackson.

The album is very much in the mould of the earlier Byrd in Hand.

The baritone always puts me in mind of the throaty roar of a Ferrari engine at the starting line.  Adams pulls acrobatic yet eloquent runs from the beast, with off-balance twists and turns, negotiating the full range of the powerful instrument, through to the finishing line. Vroom vroom!

Vinyl: BLP 4075 NY RVG ears nDG

Usual great sound of NY mono originals. Laminated cover, sharp corners, a delight.


4075-bonald-byrd-cat-walk-back-1600Collectors Corner

Source: Ebay

Sellers Description: “Very rare Donald Byrd The Cat Walk on Original Blue Note 4075 Mono New York Address with R under E. RVG and ear in dead wax on both sides
 COVER: Front is in very good condition with nice sheen. A little laminate peeling to the opening of cover. Spine is clean on all 3 sides. Small dink on bottom left. And small mark on top spine(see pics). Back cover is in great condition except for a loss of lamination above title, but does not deter from still being a great condition cover. Overall 8.5/10  VINYL: Vinyl is of good lustre, with surface marks that do not affect play.Label on side 1 has a little discolour from glue holding label Side 2 is excellent. Overall 8/10 Great LP and very hard to find in this condition!!!”

Convinced me. Another gap in the Blue Note collection filled.

9 thoughts on “Donald Byrd: Catwalk (1961) Blue Note

  1. Donald Byrd, may he rest in peace. Thankfully we can listen to his music whenever we want to and Catwalk is actually to put on right now 🙂

  2. The passing of Donald Byrd is very sad news. He was one of the first musicians I discovered when I first started exploring jazz music, and almost a decade later I still keep discovering great records that he played on. He was definitely one of the best hard bop musicians and one of my all-time favorite musicians. May he rest in peace and live on through his music.

  3. If the reports of Byrd’s death are true, LJC, then it is sad news – the ranks of the Blue Note generation are growing thin indeed. I began an interesting exercise recently – not much more than a doodle, really, while I was listening: I started with the line-up for whatever it was I was listening to (a Mingus band?) and began to check birth and death dates for the players.

    It illustrated two hardly world-shattering facts: (i) the predominance of black players; and (ii) the predominance of black players who didn’t reach 60. The rigours associated with the lifestyle of many immediately pre-war (1930s-born) jazzers — booze, heroin, ill-health and undiagnosed illness, discrimination, consuming anger, late hours, poor diet….God, the list goes on — certainly took their toll of that generation.

    But in handful of cases it also illustrated something else that I often forget or get confused about. I frequently think of the jazz greats being in, say, their 50s. And of course, many of them were, eventually. But some were barely into their twenties when they recorded their great 1950s and 60s records for Blue Note or Riverside or Prestige. The advanced sophistication of their musical ideas wasn’t always the hard-won wisdom of decades spent at the jazz coalface; in some cases it was the fire and vigour of youth — music that has already lasted a couple of generations made by (predominantly) black men in their twenties. It is extraordinary.

    But of the hard bop generation that cut records for Blue Note, those who have lived into their 80s are an absolute exception.

    Compare these musicians with those born say a generation later and the immense difference is evident. Someone like David Murray — one of the greatest reed players of his generation — born in the 1950s, and still only in his fifties, continues to play at the height of his powers and has a body of recorded work stretching to maybe hundreds of albums if his sideman dates are included (I think he has made over 80 records as leader). OK, maybe Murray is too prolific to be a good example, but the point I am trying to make is that the lifestyle which produced — and destroyed — a generation of players was relatively short-lived. By the 1950s and 1960s, it was possible — assuming one could find an audience — to play jazz *and* survive.

    It’s Friday afternoon — I can’t be held responsible….

    • Friday afternoon? At least you made good use of it. Sanguine observations.The news seems to have been picked by most of the intelligent press, though it originated in The Guardian, so I’ll keep my options open.
      I did an excercise similar to yours a few years back – I see its getting a little out of date. Byrd was still among the living.

      Not all young musicians are great, but great musicians seem to be at their best when young. I am not sure where this logic takes you, except somewhere it may involve strawberries.

      • How strange. I thought I had explored the blog pretty thoroughly, but I have never seen that rather elegant presentation of Jazz Mortality Rates. Impressive. I read it thinking that in fact it is almost as easy to prove the premature death theory as it is to disprove it. But then I think the picture would probably look somewhat different if one included more musicians who were primarily sidemen rather than leaders. Still not sure what it proves if anything. I do agree with what you imply in that post, however: longevity is not always good for jazz, and certainly not always good for jazzers’ credibility…

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