Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Unfinished Business" by the Blackbyrds

This sizzling, high-energy instrumental is one of the Blackbyrds’ funkiest tracks. This is the cut you put on when you want to pump yourself up for some big task; and it’s also good for just getting your groove on.

The syncopation on this track is just insane. The groove is just so smooth and tight. All the parts are played with flawless precision but without losing an ounce of funk. The track boasts some dazzling horn work, a super-funky bass line and infectious rhythm guitar licks. And Wesley Jackson delivers a marvelous sax solo. In some parts, the groove is reminiscent of one of Earth, Wind & Fire’s dynamic horn-driven instrumentals.

“Unfinished Business” is the title track from the Blackbyrd’s 1976 gold album. The song was written by keyboardist/composer Kevin Toney, who was one of the original members of the Blackbyrds. The song peaked at #14 on Billboard’s dance charts in the U.S. It also earned the band a Grammy nomination for "Best Instrumental Song."

The Blackbyrds were formed in 1973 by influential jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd. The late jazz legend—who had a Ph.D in music education—handpicked the band members from his pool of students at Howard University, where he taught in the music department. Byrd produced the first six Blackbyrds albums and wrote or co-wrote a number of their tracks. The initial lineup for the Blackbyrds was the following: Joe Hall (bass), Kevin Toney (keyboards), Barney Perry (guitar), Keith Killgo (drums), Pericles “Perk” Jacobs, Jr. (percussion) and Allan C. Barnes (saxophone, clarinet). Guitarist Orville Saunders and saxophonist/flautist Steve Johnson joined the band a short time later.

The Blackbyrds’ music garnered critical acclaim as well as major commercial success. The band had a string of hits throughout the ‘70s, including “Do, It Fluid,” “Happy Music,” “City Life,” “Rock Creek Park,” “Time is Movin’,” “Supernatural Feeling” and “Soft and Easy.” Their biggest hit and probably most recognized song is “Walking in Rhythm.” The track sold more than a million copies and earned the band a Grammy nomination. Additionally, the band scored three gold albums (500,000 units sold for each).

The jazz-funk outfit’s sound has been kept alive largely through hip hop. Their tracks have been sampled by numerous hip-hop artists, including Wiz Khalifa, Nas, De La Soul, Tupac Shakur, Ice Cube, Heavy D, Eric B. & Rakim and NWA.

The band broke up in 1981 but was reformed in 2012 by Keith Killgo for the album entitled Gotta Fly.  In addition to Killgo, the other original members of the Blackbyrds who played on the album were Orville Saunders, Joe Hall and Allan Barnes. The newly formed Blackbyrds did some touring in 2012 and 2013 but have been fairly inactive this year.

Unfinished Business at Amazon

Related blog entry: "Do It, Fluid" by the Blackbyrds

1 comment:

h2o health for animals said...

Just to correct your article, Ernie Watts plays tenor sax on Unfinished Business