February 19, 2017

Donald Byrd - A New Perspective (1963)

A New Perspective features an eight person gospel choir singing wordless vocals behind the septet. 1963 was the year Blue Note released Solomon Ilori's highlife album, African High Life, and Grant Green's collection of spirituals, Feelin' The Spirit, so I guess they saw no reason as to why their trusted bluesy trumpet player Donald Byrd couldn't give a crack at a semi-gospel record. The choir is a nice, somber backdrop that puts the fire and mood behind this band, but the instrumentalists aren't doing anything past their usual hard bop jams. Donald Byrd puts a lot of soul behind his lines; coming off comparable to Miles Davis with his use of simplicity albeit a duskier sound and with a stronger blues backbone. Byrd employs his trusted piano partner, the young Herbie Hancock (Hancock got his start in the recording industry by playing with Byrd), and A New Perspective is one of those albums early in his career where he just takes control of the band's sound. Hank Mobley and Kenny Burrell never jumped out me, especially not on the quicker tracks here Elijah and The Black Disciple (very solid on Beast of Burden and Cristo Redentor). Thankfully the rhythm section keeps everything here in tiptop shape and, like a good band leader should, Byrd links the soul of the choir to the band wherever he's involved. I think A New Perspective would benefit from more vibraphone involvement because Donald Best (unheard of outside this album--think he studied with Byrd at some point) is skilled and the instrument would only add to this mood. Impressive music throughout, but I think this could have been better if Mobley and Burrell were cut out.


A New Perspective