Dr. Donald Byrd, RIP; Jayne Cortez memorial photos


Jayne Cortez image with singer; photo by Sánta István Csaba

Dr. Donald Byrd was a trumpeter with an ear for the vernacular and fresh talent. Jayne Cortez was a radical poet — both esthetically and personally. Butch Morris was a jazz cornetist, composer, conductor and conductioner. Let’s celebrate the lives and creativity of all three.

Strangely, reports by a nephew of Byrd’s death at age 80 on February 4 have remained “unconfirmed.”  Morris, having died January 29 at 65. was memorialized Thursday night, Feb. 7 by speakers including Amiri Baraka, Avery Brooks, David Murray. Henry Threadgill and William Parker at Angel Orensanz, a semi-refurbisshed abandoned synogag in the East Village.  Jayne Cortez, as engaged a person and artist as one can imagine in 21st Century America, was celebrated on Wednesday Feb. 6 by her family and wide-ranging friends in an event at Cooper Union Hall. Sánta Istán Csaba photographed that event with awe for the warmth and spirit of the people filling that historic place, and also the memorial for Butch, likewise full and rich with spirit.


Dr. Donald Byrd

Byrd was best known for hard-bopping with bari saxist Pepper Adams when they’d just both come from Detroit to New York in the late ’50s, for mixing gospel doo-wop with soul jazz for Blue Note Records and mentoring Herbie Hancock, among others, in the ’60s; for producing the proto-hip–hop Blackbyrds (they were his best jazz ed. students) starting in 1973, and has been sampled by Gang Starr, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, The Pharsyde, Nas and others ever after. An NEA Jazz Master, he was appointed Artist in Residence at Delaware State University since September 2009.

I’ve posted a lot about Butch Morris recently, and will put up Sánta’s photos with appropriate writings by Steve Dalachinsky next. He was a friend whose musical contribution will, I believe, continue to be implemented and inspire new works, perhaps worldwide. David Murray told of Butch, sitting at a café in Italy in the ’80s, was seized by Seiji Ozawa, who enthused about how Morris had brought “a new, up-to-date energy to the baton” and claimed “all the conductors” in the classical world were talking about him. I also posted here some appreciation of Jayne Cortez when I learned she’d died, but below am pleased to post photos from the event which depict, I think, some of the feelings of some of her many thoughtful and talented admirers.


Randy Weston performed with T.K. Blue; photo by Sánta István Csab


Denardo Coleman, son of Jayne Cortez, and their family; photo by Sánta István Csaba


Quincy Troupe, poet; photo by Sánta István Csab


Roy Campbell, trumpet; Bill Cole, shenai; David Murray, tenor sax; photo by Sánta István Csaba


Amiri Baraka, poet and political activist; photo by Sánta István Csab


Craig Harris; photo by Sánta Istávan Csaba


David Murray; photo by Sánta Istávan Csaba

Jayne Cortez’s Firespitters is represented in Sánta’s image here only with a frontline of David Murray, Bill Cole and Roy Campbell; the band included also Denardo, drumming; Bern Nix, guitar; Albert McDowell, bass. Firespitter bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma was in the audience. There was also music by a band comprising trombonist Craig Harris, altoist T.K. Blue, tenor saxophonist James Carter, McDowell and Denardo; a reading by Robin Kelley, and a very gracious, brief talk from Jayne Cortez’s husband, sculptor Mel Edwards. Many musicians were in the audience, along with writers and other artists from America and Africa. Donations contributed in honor of Jayne Cortez should be made out to OWWA and sent to: The Organization of Women Writers of Africa (OWWA); P.O. Box 652, Village Station; New York NY 10014.


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