Classic 1972 album. If there’s one word to summarize Donald Byrd’s career, it’s undoubtedly “eclectic.” The trumpet player recorded his share of straight-ahead hard-bop, but he branched out pretty far from that central sound, adding vocal choir experiments on the groundbreaking A New Perspective, dabbling in soul jazz in the late ’60s, zoning out with space-age fusion sounds in the mid ’70s, and carving out a seriously funky groove on Ethiopian Knights. The name, admittedly, is a little misleading — there’s scarcely any trace of the Ethio-jazz sounds of musicians like Mulatu Astatke. Instead, it’s a dense fusion record a la Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, but funkier, catchier, and just fun to listen to all around. It contains only three compositions: 15-minute-plus bookends The Emperor and The Little Rasti, and the shorter Jamie sandwiched in between. While Miles was off on another, nearly untouchable plane, Byrd took influence from the likes of Sly Stone and James Brown and made something infectiously funky. The album’s just under 40 minutes, but the groove never stops.
A1 The Emperor
B1 The Little Rasti