Byrd didn't have much training in mathematics but created a groundbreaking curriculum called Music + Math (equals) Art, in which he transformed notes into numbers to simultaneously teach music and math.
"I can take any series of numbers and turn it into music, from Bach to bebop, Herbie Hancock to hip-hop," he told The Star-Ledger newspaper of Newark, N.J.
In the late '80s and early '90s, he returned to playing hard-bop on several albums for the Landmark label, which also featured saxophonists Kenny Garrett and Joe Henderson.
He performed on Guru's 1993 jazz-rap album, "Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1," and his recordings were sampled on more than 100 hip-hop songs by such performers as Black Moon, Nas, Ludacris and A Tribe Called Quest.
In 2000, the National Endowment for the Arts recognized Byrd as a Jazz Master, the nation's highest jazz honor.
Zezima reported from Trenton, N.J. Associated Press writer Charles J. Gans in New York contributed to this report.
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