Byron The Aquarius is the jazz house virtuoso making an Impact
The Alabama native makes house music by following his heart
Impact is a series dedicated to profiling raw talent that's about to turn dance music on its head. Next up: Byron The Aquarius
As a trained jazz pianist, expect to hear some wicked keys on a Byron The Aquarius record. Characterised by live instrumentation bursting with soul and melody, his music has been released on Detroit staples Sound Signature and Wild Oats. Last year, he left USA borders for the first time, touring Europe and Australia.
Born Byron Blaylock in Birmingham, Alabama and raised on records by jazz greats like Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea, he was taught piano from an early age by an old band mate of Duke Ellington. He went on to study jazz at college in Jacksonville before dropping a collaborative EP with French beats producer Onra in 2007 which lead to work with one of the LA scene’s biggest names: Flying Lotus. That was followed by a move to Detroit to make mainstream rap with D12 producer Denaun Porter before Blaylock discovered house music in the less-traditional setting of Atlanta.
It's been a nomadic journey both physically and musically, and for a lot of artists, that kind of musical growth spans a lifetime. For Blaylock, it all happened before he turned 28.
While he still produces plenty of music inspired by the low swung hip hop beats of his hero J Dilla, it was in Atlanta where he met Kai Alce who introduced him to the sounds of Detroit and Chicago. Having played keys on the NDATL Musik boss' records, it was the natural progression for him to try his hand at the genre himself. His first album ‘Planets Of Love’ on BBE was a mixture of jungle, house with a smattering of footwork for good measure. That was followed by the 'High Life' EP on Sound Signature and then releases on Wild Oats and French label Sampling As An Art.
With 2017 shaping up for more of the same, we caught up with the talented multi-instrumentalist to talk about not staying tied to one genre, hanging with the Detroit crews and heading overseas for the first time.
Exclusive interview and mix below.
I read that you moved around a bit and didn’t get into house music until moving to Atlanta and working with Kai Alce.
Correct. The first training I got [in Alabama] was from Doc Adams from Birmingham, Alabama and he played for Sun Ra and he also played with Duke Ellington. He passed last year. Then I went to Jacksonville State University where I was doing jazz training. But when I was going to that campus I was going to Atlanta and I met Kai Alce. I used to just go to his parties and party all the time with my friends. So, basically after that influence of just partying, one time he saw me and I had my laptop and my equipment and stuff ‘cos I like to go to different clubs and just create music, just give me a different type of energy. So when I went there and I was doing it he was curious. You gotta think, I had this laptop, I’m standing out. So he kinda walked up and he was like, “Yo, come by.” So we ended up kicking it.
So, what was your first taste of house music?
He had me in the studio with him so I was playing on top of his tracks and then he’s playing Omar S, Theo Parrish to Mike Huckaby. He was kind of giving me an introduction to Detroit house and stuff and the more I started playing keys on top of his production and listening to different inspiration from those guys, then I started doing it on my own and creating and adding the hip hop feeling, the jazz feeling on top of house to give it a whole different feel.
The Sound Signature EP was released a year ago and was described as your “comeback” release – what impact has it had on your career?
Man, I’d say it made a huge impact on my career based on the connection starting in Atlanta. Kai set that up for me. It kinda put me out to more people out there to kinda recognise my talent, which already you can see it in history I been doing it, but I can say it put me more in the audience where people really paid attention and kinda paid more respect for my live musicianship.