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BIS => 2024 04 26
1974 => 2023

21,00 € 21.0 EUR 21,00 € hors TVA

21,00 € hors TVA

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  • Date de la réedition

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Label: BGP
Genre: FUNK
Format: 1 LP
Date de parution: 1974
Date de la réedition: 2023


Side 1

01 Do It Fluid

02 Gut Level

03 Reggins

04 The Runaway

Side 2

01 Funky Junkie

02 Summer Love

03 Lifestyles

04 A Hot Day Today


The Blackbyrds initially met each other through shared musical study at Howard University in Washington D.C in the early seventies, an institution that turned out the likes of Leroy Hutson, Roberta Flack—who wrote the sleeve liner—and Donny Hathaway. Enter professor Donald Byrd, the head of the Black Music Department at Howard, who formed the group from some of the finest young players in his student pool. The Blackbyrds were initially borne from a requirement for Byrd to have a band to open for him at his gigs. Before long, Byrd shrewdly saw the real value and potential of the Blackbyrds, a young, slick and stylish outfit playing the en vogue funky jazz of the day. He signed them a recording deal with Fantasy, who they would record seven studio albums with throughout the 1970’s. Byrd gave his most talented students the opportunity to be heard by a wider audience, while providing them individually with an understanding of the recording and entertainment business, augmenting both their academic and professional understanding of music. For these exploits, which Byrd channelled into his research, he would eventually gain his Juris Doctor in 1976, becoming one of the pioneers of this new “jazz-funk” sound to be rewarded with genuine academic credentials.

The Blackbyrds, their self-titled freshman release, immediately made an impact. It reached gold status in the US, selling over 500,000 units by the end of 1974 (they would go on to achieve more success in 1975, with their Grammy nominated single Walking in Rhythm taken off the album Flying Start, a track that crossed over into the British mainstream airwaves and pop charts and was even pressed up as a 12″ single for DJ use). The album was presumably the debut recording session for most of the players outside of the Howard campus; Joe Hall on electric bass, Keith Killgo on drums, Kevin Toney on keyboards, melodica and synthesiser, Barney Perry on guitar, Allan Barnes on soprano and tenor saxophones, Perk Jacobs on percussion, David Williams and Ray Armando on additional bass guitar and percussion, Laverne Hayes on vocal and Oscar Brashear on trupet and flugelhorn. The session was produced by Sky-High productions team, a.k.a. the Mizell brothers, co-produced by Donald Byrd and supervised by Orin Keepnews.

The joyous and feelgood Do It Fluid opens, a funky session with a communal chorus and palpable sense of enjoyment, after which the instrumental Gut Level follows, featuring scant synthesiser lines and chicken scratch guitar, a song that imbibes the funkiest of atmospherics and the washiest and squelchiest of sound effects, from clavinets to wah-wah pedals. Personal highlight Reggins is a seminal take, opening with an instantly recognisable bassline that thunders through the sub register, complimented by a seriously catchy guitar riff and the horns of Oscar Brashear, who puts in a performance that Donald Byrd would have been proud of. Funky Junkie is one of the funkiest tracks, featuring incidental vocal from brothers Mizell, whose recognisable pipes would pepper their output throughout the 1970’s, distinctively featuring on output from Johnny Hammond, Bobbi Humphrey and Gary Bartz. Summer Love is a breezy and laidback affair, featuring watertight electric keys, operatic soprano saxophone and mild vocal stylings, a track that falls into the bracket of jazz-funk, further broadening the musical scope of the album. A Hot Day Today is a gentle and disarming tune, a relaxing gambit which hints at some of the more esoteric Mizell output to come, such as Roger Glenn’s Reachin’. It sits on a cloud like groove, padded out with simple vocal harmonies and lush Fender keys.

Overall, a seminal Mizell Brothers production that is often overlooked in the collections of many due to its mainstay status. It is something that most collectors of soul and funk own but, as in my case, don’t think about all too often, safe in the knowledge that it’s in the collection somewhere, not a record that demands urgent withdrawal—nor one that makes the cut when packing for a DJ set, more often than not—but a high quality record that adds value. Without question, it belongs in all semi-reputable funk, soul and jazz collections, a pleasant listen which doesn’t go out of its way to challenge you aurally, nor does it stray too far along the jazz path to similar extents as Donald Byrd’s solo output on Blue Note from the same era. It is a record that lovers of soul and jazz funk should know all too well, a wonderfully constructed and funky set brought together by the good doctor: Dr. Donald Byrd.