Photo Credit: Carl Hyde
Dee Byrne is a pioneering saxophonist, composer and improviser making waves on the creative scene in London and beyond through a myriad of different outlets. Her quintet Entropi is launching its second album Moment Frozen on Whirlwind Recordings on 8 September, which promises a rich musical journey “navigating themes of space-gazing, life pondering and risk-taking”. Interview by Leah Williams:
LondonJazz News: What was it that first inspired you to pick up a saxophone?
Dee Byrne: Well, the short answer is that I was introduced to the instrument at school and basically just thought it looked really cool! It turned out to be the perfect outlet for my creative needs. Although I didn’t start out playing jazz, I always had this intrinsic desire to improvise, experiment and see what I could achieve through playing. It was through listening to instrumental music, keen to hear what other soloists would do to develop sounds and melodies, that I came across people like John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter who led me to fully discover and fall in love with jazz.
LJN: How did Entropi get started?
DB: We all met at Trinity College. Most of us were doing our Masters there and Andre (Canniere) was actually one of our tutors for an ensemble. I’ve always been quite proactive in setting up bands and ensembles – I find it a really important vehicle for developing composition and improvisation. Especially as a frontline instrumentalist, I think working in ensembles can help you to carve out your own identity and convey who you are as a musician.
LJN: Moment Frozen is your second album with this quintet. What’s new this time round?
DB: There are some parallels still in terms of focus and style that continue to solidify Entropi’s sound but there has also been a lot of development. We’ve been gigging together a lot over the past couple of years and that has naturally allowed us to become more in tune with one another and push our sound further. There’s even more space this time allowing the musicians a real chance to breathe and try new things. It’s a good balance between written sections and sections that allow more freedom with group improvisation, looser form or disintegration of time.
LJN: You wrote all the pieces on this album. Where do you take your inspiration from?
DB: I’ve always liked the idea of utilising music as a vessel for exploring and conveying ideas about life, space, the human condition or even just one simple moment. I’m interested in astronomy and find the cosmos, and ideas of space and time to be a good metaphor for the unknown, complex and intriguing parts of life. Moment Frozen aims to put our lives into perspective and capture some of the snapshots that make up the whole. It’s not all serious or “space stuff” though! A lot of it is meant as just a fun starting point from which to think about things a bit differently.
LJN: Do you have any favourite tracks on the album?
DB: There are a couple that I’m really happy with. Leap of Faith balances a really delicate melody line against subtle changes of harmony that I feel really managed to give that sense of going out into the unknown and just hoping for the best. Elst Pizarro, named after a comet discovered at the end of the last century, nicely captures that feeling of movement and journeying – a theme that I think is quite important in this album, hence the spaceship on the front cover!
LJN: What about the track Fish Whisperer? There must be a story behind that?
DB: (Laughs) Yes, the story behind that one just shows that inspiration really can come from anywhere! I was looking after my friend’s fish whilst she was away and it brought about this awareness that even a simple change to your usual every day routine can force you to look at things differently. I liked the idea that the fish had been the catalyst for this without even realising it.
LJN: The album was created from live, whole takes. Is this the way you prefer to record?
DB: Definitely. It obviously has some disadvantages – you’d often listen back and think “I prefer a solo on this take but the overall sound is much better on that one” and you have to learn to make some tough decisions. The benefits really outweigh any of that though. We recorded it all in one room together just standing in a circle, really able to fully communicate with and feed off of one another. That, for me, is just so important when the emphasis of your music is on interaction and improvisation. It really comes through in the finished recording.
LJN: The album launch is on 29 September at King’s Place. Why did you choose this venue?
DB: I just think it’s a really great venue for live jazz, especially to mark an occasion like an album launch. It’s just got a bit more of a formal feel than a club but it still retains that all-important intimacy and the hall has a really rich, concentrated sound.
LJN: What else have you got coming up?
DB: Entropi will be touring the album throughout the autumn all across the UK. I’m currently working on creating some videos for the new album as well which will be available to watch soon. I’ve also got projects coming up with my duo, Deemer (an analogue drums/sax outfit with a more electronic sound), and a recording in September plus tour in December with Cath Roberts’ large ensemble, Favourite Animals. I’ll also be hosting a weekly jazz jam at Ceviche in Old Street, London, on Mondays from October.
Entropi is made up of composer/alto saxophonist Dee Byrne, trumpeter Andre Canniere, pianist Rebecca Nash, drummer Matt Fisher and bassist Olie Brice.
Moment Frozen will be released on 8 September on Whirlwind Recordings. (pp)