Fancy Free is an album by jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd that was recorded in 1969 and released by Blue Note Records during the following year.
“1969’s Fancy Free marked the beginning of Donald Byrd’s move away from hard bop, staking out fusion-flavored territory that – at this juncture – owed more to Miles Davis than the R&B-dominated jazz-funk Byrd would embrace several years down the road. Recorded just a few months after Davis’ In a Silent Way, Fancy Free finds Byrd leading a large ensemble prominently featuring Frank Foster on tenor, Lew Tabackin or Jerry Dodgion on flute, and several percussionists. But the most important piece of the puzzle is Duke Pearson’s electric piano, the first time Byrd utilized the instrument. Pearson dominates the texture of the group sound, which makes the entirety of the session seem farther outside the realm of funky hard bop than it actually is. However, that’s not to say that Fancy Free isn’t a clear break with Byrd’s past — especially the two Byrd originals that open the album. The title track – which later became one of Byrd’s more covered compositions – contrasts Pearson’s spacy musings with a busy, funky percussion groove, and there’s a loose, open feel to the improvisations that breaks with hard bop conventions. The warm ballad “I Love the Girl” has a similarly airy feel, and at eight and a half minutes, is the shortest cut; clearly Byrd wanted an open framework for exploration. The other two numbers are more traditional hard bop compositions by former Byrd students, which – although funky and full of improvisations – can’t help but feel more tethered than their predecessors. Still, even if it isn’t his most adventurous fusion outing, Fancy Free is the rare Donald Byrd album that holds appeal for rare-groove fanatics and traditionalists alike.” – Steve Huey/AllMusic.
“This dynamic period in Byrd’s career began in 1969 with the recording of Fancy Free, an album decades ahead of its time. It sounds fresh today, and young artists still sample it.” – Marc Myers/JazzWax.
“Fancy Free” (Donald Byrd) – 12:06
“I Love the Girl” (Byrd) – 8:48
“The Uptowner” (Mitch Farber) – 9:16
“Weasil” (Charles Hendricks) – 9:00
Recorded on May 9 (#2, 4) and June 6, 1969. (#1, 3)
Donald Byrd – trumpet
Julian Priester – trombone
Frank Foster – tenor and soprano saxophone
Jerry Dodgion (#1, 3) – flute
Lew Tabackin (#2, 4) – flute
Duke Pearson – electric piano
Jimmy Ponder – guitar
Roland Wilson – bass guitar
Joe Chambers (#2, 4), Leo Morris (#1, 3) – drums
Nat Bettis – percussion
John H. Robinson Jr. – percussion
Released: January 1970
Recorded: May 9, June 6, 1969
Studio: Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey
Label: Blue Note
Producer: Duke Pearson