Dee Byrne: Outlines

British combo featuring trumpet, alto, clarinet, piano, bass and drums essays 60s-style hard bop, free improvisation and modalism


This is small-group music of the recognised contemporary jazz order. Compositional variety and the presence of clarinets serve to separate it from the pack, as exemplified by the opening Capsule, where a relatively dense beginning opens out into an understated piano solo the like of which highlights how there’s more to be found in the fusion bag than empty rhetoric.

On bass clarinet Tom Ward dodges what few precedents there are with aplomb. When the music breaks down into a semi-free passage there’s nothing contrived about the development, which only goes to show that “hopping” from one idiom to another need not necessarily result only in echoes of what’s gone before.

The stately On The Other Side affords the band a chance to “sing” and this it does. Byrne solos in a fashion suggestive of how alert she is to the music’s possibilities, while trumpeter Nick Malcolm shows, as he did on a Rebecca Nash album I reviewed earlier this year, that he’s a soloist not given to technical display for its own sake; his contribution is all the more telling because of that.

Rhythmically speaking Don’t Mess With Me galumphs along in a fashion quite at odds with the melody as carried by Byrne and Malcolm before the former solos in a fashion which has the implied effect of taking the music in another direction. The result is the kind of compromise which suggests a sound world which, while highly developed, is not the product of sterile routine.

The Dance closes the album with a form of minimalism that is antithetical to empty display. Bass clarinet lends depth and colour to proceedings, while the circularity of the piano part underlines my reference to compositional depth above.

Capsule; Flow State; Arrow Of Time; On The Other Side; Immersion; Liberation; We Are Experiencing Turbulence; Don’t Mess With Me; The Dance (62.06)
Nick Malcolm (t); Dee Byrne (as); Tom Ward (cl, bcl); Rebecca Nash (p, elp); Olie Brice (b); Andrew Lisle (d). Sansom Studios, Birmingham. 16-17 October 2021.
Whirlwind Recordings WR4809