Taking what he calls an unorthodox approach to the trumpet, Isaac Byrd Jr. plays changes in a unique way and uses his instrument to paint a picture and tell a story. Playing what he has branded as “the sultry trumpet like no other”, the versatile, multi-talented Jacksonville, FL based artist finds a compelling, groove-centered and ultra-melodic way to chronicle and celebrate Life on his new CD. Byrd has a wide spectrum of emotions to share, including the joy he’s feeling as a newlywed. He was married in December 2013 to Shmeka, whose nickname is “Meek” – which is also the title of one of the album’s infectious focal tracks. The soulful and romantic, easy shuffling tune was played at their wedding as “Meek” walked down the aisle.
Explaining of the inspiration behind the writing and recording of the twelve tracks of Life, Byrd says, “It’s basically about the changes that go on in life, written from a personal perspective of what I see in the world today, as well as my own personal experiences as I have made transitions through relationships and breakups, and then started over again and at last found fulfillment. It’s about the wild ups and downs, emotionally, economically and in many other ways. While I like the songs on my first album, I had a tendency before to be a little more of a perfectionist and now am more comfortable drawing from my emotions. As people have become more encouraging over the years, I feel I am more comfortable now sharing my gift, and my musical heart and soul with people.”
Byrd brings a rich and dynamic history as a jazz performer to his emergence in the contemporary urban jazz world. While he was influenced by trumpet greats like Wynton Marsalis and Terence Blanchard, he draws his rhythmic flair from the pianists and saxophonists he grew up admiring, from John Coltrane and Charlie Parker to Keith Jarrett and Brad Mehldau. While attending Florida State College at Jacksonville, he started a band called Project Funk, for which he was the drummer. The group, which toured regionally, had a unique funk-fusion spin on jazz standards. When this ensemble evolved into the more crowd-pleasing, pop/R&B oriented Tribe Judah, Byrd chose his other instrument, the trumpet, as his lead voice.
Tribe Judah made a regional name for itself playing live with Keni Myles, PJ Morton and Laura Izibor, and Byrd – who was part of the IAJE All-Star Big Band during college - played on recordings by Lisa McClendon, Leon Timbo, and Merlon Devine. He later performed with Bobby Shew, Joe Lovano, Chase Sanborn, Chris Vidale, Jaguar Wright and others. Another highlight was sharing the stage with his trumpet mentor, Teddy Washington. While the trumpet is his voice as an artist, Byrd, a member of the Jacksonville Jazz Society, still plays drums in the worship band at Builders of the Faith Christian Center, a non-denominational church in Jacksonville.