Byron Wallen




Byron was raised in a musical environment and started learning his first instrument, the piano, at an early age. He then went on to study the trumpet with Jimmy Owens, Donald Byrd and Jon Faddis in New York. His early music career was forged while he was studying for a degree in Psychology, Philosophy and Maths at Sussex University (he graduated in 1992). During this period he recorded for Loose Ends and Cleveland Watkiss, and played trumpet with the likes of Mervyn Africa, The Style Council, Charles Earland, Courtney Pine and Jean Toussaint.

By the late 90s his work was receiving world-wide attention and his fluent trumpet, firmly rooted in the jazz tradition, could be heard performing with a myriad of artists such as David Murray, Andrew Hill, Butch Morris, Ralph Moore, Billy Higgins, Eddie Henderson, Wynton Marsalis, Herlin Riley, Freddie Hubbard, George Benson, William Orbit, Toumani Diabate, Brice Wassy, Lonnie Liston Smith, Ronnie Laws and Chaka Khan. His trumpet has also appeared alongside African pioneers such as Hugh Masekela, Manu Dibango and Amampondo. One of the most versatile and dynamic voices on the British jazz scene, he has performed with rap outfits such as The Roots, Digable Planets and Us3.

The Windrush Gala Concert in 2001 saw Byron work with Mica Paris, Caron Wheeler, Shola Ama, Roland Gift, Desmond Dekker, Janet Kay and Grace Jones. The concert was staged as a culmination of a remarkable season of programmes by the BBC.

He has collaborated and recorded with Talvin Singh on the Mercury prize award-winning album OK for Island Records (2000); Craig David, laying down brass parts and soloing on the title track Slicker Than Your Average (2002); and Courtney Pine on the albums Back in the Day (2000) and Devotion (2003).

Byron’s film and TV appearances include The House of Elliott (1996), the Paramount picture The Talented Mr. Ripley (2000) in which he played a jazz trumpeter, the Stephen Fry film Bright Young Things (2003) and De-Lovely – The Cole Porter Story (2004). His Kudu horn can be heard in the Warner Brothers film Troy (2004).

The past few years have seen Byron perform with World Music artists Baaba Maal and Cheikh-Lo (2005) and a host of jazz legends: Bobby McFerrin (2005); Sam Rivers (2006); Andrew Hill tours (2006–2007); Jack DeJohnette (2007); McCoy Tyner (2007). He has also been working with Gregory Isaacs, Ken Boothe and Mikey Spice – pioneers of the reggae world.

The release of his critically-acclaimed Meeting Ground album in 2007 was followed by a promotional UK and European tour. His current work includes a commission from the British Science Museum for an installation called The Question Room. Byron is a Denis Wick artist and plays an Eclipse trumpet hand-made in the United Kingdom.