Byron Wallen
Byron WallenByron Wallen was born in London on 17 July 1969, and raised by his aunt who encouraged his musical talents, sending him to piano lessons at an early age. Growing up in Tottenham with three older, musical sisters, Byron heard soul and funk around the house and was profoundly impressed at an early age by Louis Armstrong. He learnt the euphonium at Boys Brigade from the age of seven, which gave him a love of bass lines and weaving counter melodies into tunes.His course was truly set when he attended his first concert around the age of twelve. Weather Report were touring in support of their 'Domino Theory' album ? and Byron was blown away: "I got the album and started to find out where that sound came from and traced it back to Miles Davis. And once I started getting into Miles, I wanted to play trumpet. I felt, wow, this is it. And I still feel like that", he recalls.
 

Byron's parents are both originally from Belize but moved to New York, where Byron used to visit them as a teenager, taking the opportunity to study the trumpet with great musicians like Jimmy Owens, Donald Byrd and Jon Faddis. "I learned that they never took anything for granted. They want to understand the intricacies of what they're playing, to get inside it. That's the mind of a jazz musician. And this esoteric world has got a lot of answers... and questions," he says, sagely. Whilst mastering the trumpet and flugel horn, Byron maintained an interest in academics and went to study Psychology, Philosophy and Maths at Sussex University. There he recorded with Loose Ends and Cleveland Watkiss and played trumpet in a mixture of musical settings: with Mervyn Africa, The Style Council, Charles Earland, Courtney Pine and Jean Toussaint, as well as with his sister, pianist Errolyn Wallen, in Ensemble X. It soon became apparent that Byron was also a powerful composer, and his intuitive and spiritual leanings shine through in 'Tarot Suite', his evocative live jazz score that draws inspiration from the symbols and imagery of the tarot cards. A twenty-two piece suite written for ten musicians, its world premier in 1994 received rave reviews, with Byron being hailed by The Guardian as 'the most interesting new explorer of Miles Davis' legacy'. His hypnotic sounds are largely inspired by meditation, something Byron has been practising for over ten years. Reaching a higher state of awareness is something Byron is dedicated to and he is trying to develop a meditation through sound. "I think that music in its purest form should affect your whole mind and senses", he explains.

Collaborating with a number of musicians from David Murray to Chaka Khan, the band that really showcases Byron's positive and musically diverse vision is his own long-running outfit, Sound Advice, with which he seeks to use the power of music to bring people of all cultures together. "The highest thing we can do in life is to raise consciousness. The group does this through R.A.M.P.: Realistic Alternative Messages to Pessimism." Which translates as a unique mixture of rap, funk, jazz and reggae, in a Brazilian blend. Such wild eclecticism made Byron a natural candidate for M.E.L.T.2000. Spotted by Robert Trunz and Airto Moreira playing at 'The Shape Of Things To Come' concert promoted by Straight No Chaser in 1994, Byron was invited to record his first album, also called 'Sound Advice' (BW063). He'd almost finished making the record by the time he joined Airto in the Meltdown expedition to South Africa in October, 1994. "Going to Africa and meeting and playing with the likes ofAmampondo was like a fresh burst of life, because I'd heard those sounds before, but actually playing and interacting with those musicians was something else. It was inspirational," he affirms. 'Sound Advice' was produced by Airto Moreira who provided much of the percussion on this album. With an illustrious cast including Ed Jones on soprano sax, Gary Crosby on bass, Jose Neto and Orphy Robinson this album earned Byron a reputation as one of the most intriguing young brass players on the UK scene. In 1995, Byron joined Incognito for a seven-month tour travelling through Europe, the States, and the Middle East. During this he absorbed the music and attitudes of indigenous peoples across the world: "I realised that I could learn so much from these different countries and cultures. On my return, I thought it was to make some kind of statement about that through music." In '96 'Sound Advice' was invited to play at the Anglo-Arabic festival in Syria, where they went down a storm. Wallen's exploration of world music is expressed fully on his second album 'Earth Roots' (BW090), released by M.E.L.T.2000 in May 1997. A departure from his song based debut 'Sound Advice', this is more freeform, mixing sounds, beats, poetry and music. Reflecting the influences from the Arab world and the Far East, as well as the African ?American jazz tradition, Byron introduces his poetic messages of environmental and political change to produce a unique, experimental and deeply moving album. His remarkable trumpet playing penetrates an ethereal wave of sounds evoking distant lands, supported by the gentle percussive pulse of the earth. 'Winds of Change', taken from Earth Roots was successfully remixed by Ashley Beedle's Black Science Orchestra entering a number of dance charts. Deep, funky and atmospheric, Update magazine reviewed this as an 'essential tune'.This dance focus has continued with Byron collaborating with Red Snapper, touring and recording together from 98 to the present day. The excellent album 'Making Bones' was the result of this collaboration. Byron's passion for music consistently leads him into feverish explorations of different musical avenues. In 97 he went to Morocco, where he recorded with a master Gnawa musician, Si Mohammed Chaouqi. This led to his contribution on Richard Horowitz and Susan Deyhim's intoxicating album 'Majoun' on which he played with West African and Gnawa musicians on Bambaraka. Whilst researching Gnawa music- a powerful trance-like fusion of religious Arabic songs and African rhythms, Wallen says he experienced, "something which you cannot experience on a CD or analyse or write about. It is the presence of 'the spirit'. So much so because it is not just music, it is belief. This is what I came away with, that feeling of being really close to the divine." In 1998 he collaborated with Felix Jay and the duo recorded 'Acoustic Marks' on Hermetic records. They have continued to work together, and Byron is now in the process of establishing his own record label. On July 29 2003 Byron Wallen received an award for Innovation in jazz. The award was from the BBC and was given to him by close friend and fellow trumpeter Claude Deppa. The award was an affirmation of Byron's work over the years and his outstanding work over the last twelve months in particular the Langston Hughes commission, the Indigo quartet album and his innovative 'Sacred Circles' project featuring Cleveland Watkiss.

In 2005 Byron finished a project working with Jack DeJohnette, the master drummer, celebrating the legendary boxer Jack Johnson. They performed at the Barbican in London playing music from the 1970's Miles Davis electric period. Check Byron's Kudu horn track on the new Warner Bros. film 'TROY'. He got the beautiful set of horns from South Africa and recorded a haunting mystical track for the film in Abbey Road Studios with composer GABRIEL YARED (Possession) After the release of his album Indigo in 2002 Byron has been mixing the next 'Indigo' release on Twilight Jaguar Records. The album is called "Meeting Ground" and features a Gnawa master musician called Boujmma from Taridint in Morocco. The album is a kaleidoscope of colours including sounds of the Guimbri (three stringed lute), Boujmaa's beautiful voice, and the mesmerizing sounds of "Indigo". The album is a true meeting ground of traditional Moroccan Gnawa music and Jazz. 'Planet Shell' will be the next Solo album for Byron and will take over where his highly acclaimed 'Earth Roots' album left off. It explores vocal music from all around the world from Kalahari San circle songs to the motets of thirteenth century Europe. The fascinating thing is all the vocals are created by various types and sizes of shells! Byron Wallen walks the backstreets of Cape Town during the Meltdown expedition 1994 On 'Earth Roots' "This is world jazz of the highest quality, an exceptional piece and one to expand with" - Touch magazine "Weird and wonderful, a visionary" -Blues & Soul "Laid back in the extreme - floats in the same rarified air that Alice Contrane & Pharoah Saunders used to breathe" Q "The overall results are graceful,intelligent and consistently creative, a world music influenced English effort that is to be recommended" ? Evening Standard Visit Byron's website : http://www.byronwallen.com