Given the long period of time that Donald Byrd recorded for Blue Note (from the 1950s through the mid-'70s), it seems more than a little disingenuous to refer to the relatively brief period he spent with the Mizell Brothers as his producers, arrangers, and composers in the '70s as his best work. It is true that it was his most commercially viable period, and that many of the cuts he recorded with them ~ AllMusic
Reuniting with Larry Mizell, the man behind his last three LPs, Donald Byrd continues to explore contemporary soul, funk, and R&B with Places and Spaces. In fact, the record sounds more urban than its predecessor, which often played like a Hollywood version of the inner city. Keeping the Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, and Sly Stone influences of Street Lady, Places and Spaces adds elements of Marvin Gaye, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Stevie Wonder, which immediately makes the album funkier and more soulful. Boasting sweeping string arrangements, sultry rhythm guitars, rubbery bass, murmuring flügelhorns, and punchy horn charts, the music falls halfway between the cinematic neo-funk of Street Lady and the proto-disco soul of Earth, Wind & Fire. Also, the title Places and Spaces does mean something – there are more open spaces within the music, which automatically makes it funkier. Of course, it also means that there isn't much of interest on Places and Spaces for jazz purists, but the album would appeal to most fans of Philly soul, lite funk, and proto-disco.
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Jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd’s critically acclaimed career and life have assured the Detroit native his rightful place as one of the most respected musicians of the 20th century. Having successfully transitioned to Jazz Fusion in the 1970s under the guidance of the Mizell brothers, creating four albums on Blue Note records including the highly influential Places and Spaces, Byrd continued to explore the fertile possibilities of Fusion with four more albums recorded for Elektra Records between 1978 and 1982.
One of his last efforts with the Mizell production team was definitely not his most critically acclaimed, but Caricatures continued Byrd's commercial winning streak that started years previous with 1969's Kofi and such '70s Blue Note classics as Places and Spaces, Black Byrd, and Street Lady. His last release for the label was no exception to the formula set forth from the previously mentioned albums. ~ AllMusic
This unusual set was one of the most successful uses of a gospel choir in a jazz context. Trumpeter Donald Byrd and a septet that includes tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley, guitarist Kenny Burrell, and pianist Herbie Hancock are joined by an eight-voice choir directed by Coleridge Perkinson. The arrangements by Duke Pearson are masterful and one song, "Cristo Redentor," became a bit of a hit. This is a memorable effort that is innovative in its own way, a milestone in Donald Byrd's career.