Donald Byrd – 1975 – Stepping Into Tomorrow
Donald Byrd released a series of 5 magnificent albums in Blue Note, between 1973 and 1976 (Black Byrd, Street Lady, Stepping Into Tomorrow, Places and Spaces, Caricatures), under the high artistic supervision of Mizzell brothers. “Stepping Into Tomorrow” stands as the flagship right in the middle of this run, let its title alone carve some new path in unexplored at the time of its release territory.
Associatively coming into today, this marks my first post after almost 8 years in FMS, a period of time that almost equals the years that this blog is in existence (and more)… Groovy Emmanuel then, let’s drop out Groovy and just keep Emmanuel now… In the meantime, Nikos has been effortively keeping the spirit of this blog alive and well… Countless records on one hand, countless soul deposit on the other… And that is the Soul in Music all about, after all… It’s time now to step into tomorrow…
A1 Stepping Into Tomorrow 5:11
A2 Design A Nation 4:19
A3 We’re Together 4:23
A4 Think Twice 6:10
B1 Makin’ It 3:45
B2 Rock And Roll Again 6:09
B3 You Are The World 4:29
B4 I Love The Girl 3:53
Review By Emmanuel
…. Ok now, let us just take a quick glimpse at the inner sleeve photo…. Yeah, it’s Donald Byrd, and is looking good, and is looking dapper, and is smiling, almost prompting us to take a step into tomorrow , …. Ok then, let us all return the smile he just sent.… This is a humble tribute to a legend, a tiny little reference to those who made this happen, and a grand greeting to an era that bore a rich legacy amongst music lovers and producers all over the place , deep in the years to come and still coming… At the time of its release “Stepping Into Tomorrow” met a somehow strong rejection on jazz purists side, partly because of the production techniques used, mostly because of the music itself. First we take the production and then we take the music…. The Mizell brothers, Larry and Fonce, had their own Sky High Productions company. Larry, a former NASA employee on the Apollo space program, was a vivid enthusiast in exploring advanced studio technology such as the use of the then new synthesizer, and Fonce had a production team (The Corporation) responsible for some of the early Jackson Five hits.
They not only made the production, they wrote all the compositions but one, made all the arrangements and they participated as musicians, which finally lead us to the music itself… Jazz (the matrix of it all), R&B (call it R’nR), soul, funk, all’n’all, all in one, to the core of the compositions themselves, and further to the sum of it all which stands as strong as its parts. Donald, a bebop legend himself had no hesitation digging deep into the parts, staying loose and at the very same moment getting hooked to the heart of the composition, almost flying in and out of it. And what about the rest of the crew!!! Gary Bartz, Chuck Rainey, Harvey Mason, Mayuto Correa, …., just to name a few….By the time of its release, “Stepping Into Tomorrow” sounded almost unheardable… For instance, someone could swear he was hearing a theramin playing in the title track… Theramin in jazz? Pretty much of a blasphemy … Actually, there were female singers going into high notes making it soprano flying!!! Thus talking, what a vocal performance by Kay Haith in “Think Twice” and what an almost minimal, ethereal performance by them all in the whole thing, this is simply the soul in jazz… Last, but not least, the truth of it all, the actual step into tomorrow, the projection of this thing to the days that were about to come, twenty, thirty, forty years after its release and still counting… Its legacy, from the better known reinterpretations by Donald’s fellow Detroit natives Jay Dilla and Carl Craig in “Think Twice”, via Madlib’s “Stepping Into Tomorrow” version, to the lesser known remixes of “Stepping Into Tomorrow” as sampled in “Pressure 98” by Extended Spirit a Jazzanova side project, and so on……. Call it hip hop, call it electronica, call it nu jazz, call it whatever… This is Soul in Music.
Ok then, let us all return the smile he just sent….
and listen up this awesome gem.