*JUST IN!* Donald Byrd & 125th Street, N.Y.C – Everyday b/w Gerald Levert – The Top Of My Head – Jai Alai ESP 7″

*JUST IN!* Donald Byrd & 125th Street, N.Y.C – Everyday b/w Gerald Levert – The Top Of My Head – Jai Alai ESP 7″


The latest release on Jai Alai follows the format of forgotten vinyl tracks never before released on 7” format, or previously CD only album tracks, and will raise some eyebrows in artist selection and pairing.

Donaldson Toussaint L’Ouverture Byrd II was one of the most significant jazz artists of all time having joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the mid-50s and establishing himself as one of the best hard bop trumpeter/flugelhorn players. His progression was continuous through the 50s/60s working with John Coltrane, Gigi Gryce, Pepper Adams, Thelonius Monk, Sonny Rollins as sideman, and became one of Blue Note Records leading artists.

By the end of the 60s Byrd decided to move away from that idiom, experimenting with jazz fusion, African music and Rhythm & Blues. He worked hard to make jazz and its history part of the curriculum in US music colleges and he taught at many including Rutgers, Hampton, Howard, and Columbia, the latter from who he received his PhD in music.
Byrd took a great interest in how Miles Davis’ experimentation was resonating with a younger audience, and despite being castigated by his musical peers, his development of jazz fusion changed the jazz scene forever. His work with the Blackbyrds was a cornerstone for the progression of jazz funk in the UK.

The effect of his hook-up with brothers Larry & Fonce Mizell was immediate and his Blue Notes albums “Black Byrd” (1973), “Street Lady”, “Stepping Into Tomorrow” (1974), “Places & Spaces” (1975) and “Caricatures” (1976) became legendary on the newly evolving jazz funk scene with certain tracks such as “Change (Makes You Wanna Hustle)” normalising dance jazz on the disco floors, not to mention being a rich source for many hip-hop samples.

There is only so much tragedy one family can take and legendary O’Jay Eddie Levert has surely had more than most. To have lost both sons by the time they reached 40 is incomprehensible, particularly ones so talented, and in such tragic circumstances; an accidental but fatal mixture of over-the-counter drugs and prescription pain-killers in Gerald’s case, and due to incompetent medical care whilst temporarily incarcerated in Sean’s.

Gerald Levert left quite a legacy though. He set up his first band LeVert in 1985 with younger brother Sean, and childhood friend Marc Gordon. They released an album each year for the next five years enjoying increasing success, recording seven in total of which four went gold. Their initial album “I Get Hot” (1985 Tempre) was critically acclaimed as one of the greatest soul albums of the decade.

A solo career beckoned in 1991 and he immediately topped the R&B charts with Private Line and the following year had huge success with the number one hit “Baby Hold On To Me”, a duet with his father, which led to the album “Father And Son” in 1995. Levert released nine solo albums, discovered the R&B groups the Rude Boys, Men At Large and 1 Of The Girls, as well as being part of the Black Men Unlimited, the collective who scored with U Will Know, the soundtrack to the widely acclaimed ghetto film “Jason’s Lyric”.

Gerald was also a member of supergroup LSG, with Keith Sweat and Johnny Gill (their initials forming the name) who between them had enjoyed thirty number one R&B hits and album sales of more than thirty million. Their debut album unsurprisingly sold over 2 million copies with the single “My Body” going platinum.

Of his solo albums, all but the first two were CD only, and the selection here, “The Top Of My Head”, is a delicate string-laden stepper taken from arguably his finest album, “G Spot” (2002 Elektra), and features his lead falsetto vocal interwoven with his own background vocals. Pure class.

(Steve Hobbs)

10 in stock


Donald Byrd & 125th Street, N.Y.C



Title B

Gerald Levert – The Top Of My Head


Jai Alai





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