Saturday, February 08, 2014

Donald Byrd - Ethiopian Knights (Blue Note, 1971)

During the late 1960's and early 1970's, Miles Davis wasn't the only trumpeter to add elements of funk and rhythm and blues to his playing. Donald Byrd recorded an excellent series of electrically tinged albums for Blue Note during this period. They might not have gotten the same attention as Davis' audacious albums but they are ripe for rediscovery. This album has a large ensemble, including Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, Joe Sample on organ and Harold Land on tenor saxophone. On "The Emperor" the music is quite funky and accessible with guitar, electric piano and bass developing a deep groove. Byrd enters, flying over the deep stew of music below him, led by strong funky drumming. Electric rhodes piano and vibes work well to provide shading and context for the music as the large ensemble builds to envelop them. There is an interlude for saxophone and then Byrd comes back in, he doesn't dominate, but flows with the music that surrounds him. "Jamie" provides a respite, it's a short quiet ballad interlude with Byrd playing softly. The atmosphere is built up again on "The Little Rasti" with an opening for drums building a deep pocket with electric bass. Wah-wah flavored guitar builds the atmosphere further before pulling back slightly for Land's entrance on saxophone’s entrance. He builds strong saxophone building over the funky groove, creating a hypnotic groundwork for Bryd's belated enterance. Ethiopian Knights -

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