The rain has passed, the sun is kicking it, and the greenery is lush. The Susquehanna valley really shines this time of year and we should all appreciate that we are lucky to live here. To celebrate that, down here in the Síbín we chose a super funky album that explores the ups and downs of living in the big city. We get to vicariously jam to the urban vibe while not fighting for sidewalk space, enjoying the flora and fauna that is abundant all around us, and breathe the fresh manured air all with cheap-esque rent.

The Public Records digs into the Hannah and Isaac collection to present for its album of the week: ‘City Life’ by the Blackbyrds (Fantasy records, 1975). This jazz-funk album is another out-of-the-parker by an out-of-the-parker band. The Blackbyrds got their start in Washington, D.C. In 1973. Several students of Donald Byrd, a trumpeter who was at the time teaching at Howard University, were the initial members: Kevin Toney on keys, Keith Killgo sang and drummed, Joe Hall played bass while Allan Barnes was the woodwinder and Barney Perry played guitar. They signed with Fantasy Records in 1973 and recorded 8 albums between 1974 – 1980. Their line-up grew and soon included Orville Saunders on guitar and Jay Jones on flute and saxophone among others.

They had a massive impact on the next generation of musicians. In fact, a track on this album has been sampled by no less than Big Daddy Kane, De La Soul, Erik B. & Rakim, Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, Heavy D, Ice Cube, Massive Attack, MF DOOM, Nas, N.W.A, and Tone Lōc. Wowouch! Say that five times fast. Also the first person who comments on what that track is wins a Public Records Mystery Box!*

‘City Life’ was produced by Donald Byrd (1932 – 2013), who had no less of an impressive career. Not only did he influence the Blackbyrds, but this jazz trumpeter helped get Herbie Hancock’s career really moving.

As a musician, Byrd worked with several labels: Verve, Blue Note, and Columbia to name a few; and many, many musicians – Art Blakey, Thelonius Monk, and John Coltrane were just some of the names that played with him.

Byrd was also a prolific educator; teaching music at a plethora of schools: Cornell University, Delaware State, the Hampton Institute, Howard University, New York University, North Carolina Central University, Oberlin College, and Queens College.

He was a bebop jazzist who was able to maintain his jazz sensibilities while pioneering funk and soul. Even though the world misses Byrd, we are lucky to live in a time of recorded work and even luckier that places like The Public Records maintain those records for our enjoyment.

Joe P. recommends that that enjoyed be had with a nice Woodford Reserve and ginger with a slice of lime.

*The first person to leave a comment with the correct name of the song sampled so much wins a Public Records Mystery Box. A $10.00 value absolutely free. You may claim your prize on Saturday night in the Síbín – just ask for DJ Maxx.