In July 1973, Blue Note Records headed to Montreux, Switzerland to showcase several of the label’s stars at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Live albums all titled Live: Cookin’ with Blue Note at Montreux followed from Bobby Hutcherson, Ronnie Foster, Bobbi Humphrey, and Marlena Shaw, but one of the performances by Donald Byrd remained unreleased in the Blue Note vaults. Now, nearly 50 years later, that recording of the great trumpeter’s dynamic set is officially released for the first time ever on what would have been Byrd’s 90th birthday: December 9, 2022.
That summer, Byrd was fresh off the release of his hit crossover fusion album Black Byrd, the first of his innovative and incredibly successful studio collaborations with producer Larry Mizell. But in a live setting the band had a rawer, harder edge, as this searing set attests. Byrd led a 10-piece band that included Larry Mizell on synthesizers, Fonce Mizell on trumpet and vocals, Allan Barnes on tenor saxophone and flute, Nathan Davis on soprano and tenor saxophone, Kevin Toney on electric piano, Barney Perry on electric guitar, Henry Franklin on electric bass, Keith Killgo on drums, and Ray Armando on congas and percussion. The set list includes Larry Mizell’s tune “Black Byrd” along with otherwise unrecorded Byrd originals like “The East,” “Kwame,” and “Poco-Mania,” as well as an excellent cover of Stevie Wonder’s “You’ve Got It Bad Girl.”