Donald Byrd and Van Cliburn: When they were at their best, there was no one better. 

I'm listening to Byrd's Royal Flush right now. Someday I'm going to go through all the records with Byrd and Herbie Hancock together. There's about ten of them, begining in 1961. In their own way, it is just as a magical combination as Miles Davis and Hancock.

Those years were right when Van Cliburn was at his height. I really admire those early records — who doesn't? I particularly like Cliburn in Rachmaninoff.

Both men, however, had trouble navigating a long-time successful career in the arts. It's always regrettable when the tracks you want to spin when somebody passes are 30, 40, or 50 years old.

Frannie Kelley: Remembering Donald Byrd, Jazz Trumpeter Who Spanned Generations

Michael J. West: Byrdland: Why Donald Byrd Mattered to Jazz, Its Legitimacy, and D.C.

Terry Teachout: Van Cliburn, R.I.P.

Matthew Guerrieri: Competitions