Its Flight Time baby. I abso- positive- ly love when artists say a big FU to what fans and critics expect of them. John Cale did it with his solo records, Rod Stewart did it in his post-Faces albums, Miles did it nearly every other album… However, my pick of the day “Where Are We Going?” from Donald Byrd’s Black Byrd album literally smacked his jazz roots from the ground and said hell no…I’m making music for the people. A year before this release in 1972, Miles had released “On the Corner” a straight up hard jazz funk album as a reaction against the continuing conservative mentality in jazz music. He wanted his music to be heard in the ghetto and in the streets, he wanted music for the proletariat.
Donald Byrd inspired (and aided by the Mizell brothers’ production), took a slightly different tact, he wanted his music to be heard in the streets but also by the growing African-American middle class. Let’s not forget that the Civil Rights Act was less than a decade past. So, in a way this type of music was rebellious since it was celebrating people movin’ on up. Rather than play to the increasingly gentrified jazz market, he used funk as the outlet out of it. For the first time you hear his vocals, concise tracks with actual melodic grooves, and memorable passages that anyone, regardless of whether they’re into jazz or not can remember. It helped relaunch his career, and became one of the largest selling albums (to the ire of jazz critics). Although, not his best album in my opinion (that honor goes to Street Lady personally) it did set a tone would help his community answer the question he posed. Most importantly, he as an artist, used his future releases to foment a brilliant response.
Before hitting up the Spotify track, check out Donald’s electrifying live performance of Blackbyrd at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1973: