The Blackbyrds

Tuesday 24 May 2022

“Walking In Rhythm”, “I Need You”, “Walkin’ In Rhythm”, “Rock Creek Park”

The Blackbyrds were a jazz-funk group with thick R&B streaks running down their backs. Assembled by Donald Byrd in 1974, the group’s original members — percussionist Pericles “Perk” Jacobs, Jr., drummer Keith Killgo, keyboardist Kevin Toney, reeds player Allan Barnes, bassist Joe Hall, guitarist Barney Perry — were mined from Howard University’s music department, where the doctor and jazz legend was an instructor. (Other key players included guitarist Orville Saunders and saxophonist/flautist Steve Johnson.)

During the Blackbyrds’ nearly decade-long existence, the group cut a handful of LPs (1973’s The Blackbyrds, 1974’s Flying Start, 1975’s City Life, 1976’s Unfinished Business, 1977’s Action, 1980’s Better Days); scored films (1975’s Cornbread, Earl and Me); and supported artists like B.B. King, Mandrill, and Roberta Flack. “Walking in Rhythm,” “Rock Creek Park,” and “Happy Music” are their three best-known cuts; they have remained underground club classics, and they have been kept alive, in part, through sampling.

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