Dee Byrne previews her gig, wither her band Entropi, at Pizza Express Jazz Club on Tuesday 1st April (part of the Xantoné Blacq Presents... series.
My family wasn’t musical, but growing up in a tight-knit Irish community on the outskirts of London I was constantly attending traditional Irish folk music nights with my parents. I often took my saxophone to these nights and ‘sat in’ with the bands, learning the folk melodies by ear and playing along. The atmosphere was always high-spirited; there was lots of singing and dancing. I liked the sense of community and seeing different generations intermingling. It was in many ways reminiscent of the atmosphere at a jazz jam session, which functions as a ‘get together’ for jazz musicians to play together and hang out.
Alongside that I played in lots of bands in my home town, I rehearsed most nights of the week and loved the feeling of improvising and interacting with other musicians. When I was eighteen I left home to live in the South of France and quickly hooked up with musicians there. Pretty soon I was playing most nights in the bars in Nice. I also went on a year long tour round Europe with a band playing original music. That was my music education.
It wasn’t until my early twenties that I started listening to jazz seriously. When I first heard Coltrane I was hooked, deeply moved by albums such as Impressions, Crescent and A Love Supreme. I was also mesmerised by Wayne Shorter’s classic albums Night Dreamer, Ju Ju and Speak no Evil. I listened extensively to Ornette Coleman, Joe Henderson, John Scofield, Alan Holdsworth and Keith Jarrett. The common denominator was rawness, intensity and emotion expressed through music.
Listening to these albums made me want to create a saxophone sound and ultimately a group that could in some way emulate the intensity, integrity and energy of these artists while presenting something packaged differently.
Relocating to Sweden for a period of time, I played in several bands alongside studying for a bachelor’s degree in linguistics and literature at Stockholm University. My studies in linguistics helped me to understand the relationship between music and language, which helped me to work out an effective practice routine later on. On returning to London I decided to apply for a Masters at Trinity College of Music to get some formal training. At Trinity, I met the members of my band and received first class tuition from top jazz musicians in the UK.
Entropi started life as a vehicle for composition and improvisation when I was studying for my Masters. I would describe my music as edgy, contemporary and emotionally engaging. Group interaction is very important to me. I want to create a balance between pre- arranged written material and spontaneous improvisation by juxtaposing tight arrangements with open-ended sections that give room for the improviser to explore. I like a feeling of ‘tight but loose’, a spaciousness that is framed.
My compositions deal with the inconsistent nature of time, the transience of life, exploration of the unknown, pivotal moments of decision-making, journeys in outer space and the unlikely symmetry of seemingly unrelated events.
I feel very lucky to be playing with a group of great individuals who are all highly in demand musicians, composers and bandleaders themselves. Like a poem that only comes to life when the reader engages with it, Andre Canniere (trumpet), Rebecca Nash (piano), Olie Brice (double bass) and Matt Fisher (drums) bring their distinct personalities to the band allowing the narratives to unfold in a seamless mix of the improvised and written. They take the classic jazz quintet line up in a new direction. Our group will be recording our début album later this year.