To Los Angeles and back: State College native musician Aeb Byrne to return for ‘Universally Sound’ jazz festival

Aeb Byrne performs in Los Angeles with an all-star band including Sebastian Bach (Skid Row), Alex Lifeson (Rush), Tommy Thayer (Kiss) and Patrick Lamb.
Aeb Byrne performs in Los Angeles with an all-star band including Sebastian Bach (Skid Row), Alex Lifeson (Rush), Tommy Thayer (Kiss) and Patrick Lamb. Photo provided

State College native and flutist Adrienne “Aeb” Byrne will return to the region to perform at “Universally Sound,” the Penn State Jazz Club’s 60th anniversary concert.

“This is the student club that has brought artists such as Dave Brubeck and John Coltrane to perform on campus. In this two-day festival, they’re bringing the internationally famed Rene McLean and his group, fingerstyle guitar virtuoso Thomas Leeb, and fusion duo Julian Thayer and Scott Robinson as well as my group.”

A prodigy among musical progeny, Byrne’s love of music runs as deep as the roots of her family tree (dad, Penn State professor Eli Byrne, also is a musician amd mom “loves the blues and knows how to get down”). She performed throughout State College with a number of musicians, including R&B-jazz band Urban Fusion and rock group The Nightcrawlers, but Byrne took her talents to the West Coast. She said a community like State College is almost better for burgeoning musicians.

“In a strange way, Los Angeles is a more racist place than State College,” she said. “State College is small so people have to learn to work together. L.A. is big enough that everyone can stick to their own if they choose to, and for the most part that’s the easy route. I played at one club and this blues singer was in the audience and heard me jamming out on some Cumbia. He said ‘Man, I’d love to hear what you sound like playing with some black musicians.’ He clearly wasn’t sure what I’d think of the suggestion, but it didn’t strike me as odd at all.”

Byrne said people often ask her why she moved to L.A., where she is a full-time musician in several bands.

“Rather than explaining that I moved here to play music, I prefer to say music is what I do and I needed a change of scenery and a new set of challenges,” she said.

The work of a flutist is never done, and Byrne has found gigs with even the unlikeliest of counterparts, including Robby Krieger (The Doors), Alex Lifeson (Rush), Tommy Thayer (Kiss), Alice Cooper and Sebastian Bach.

The jazz club concert will reunite Byrne and her West Coast lineup with a former Nightcrawler bandmate.

“It was a challenging search for a rhythm section that matched my eclectic tastes, and I am grateful to have ended up with the prolifically creative Evan Stone on drums (The Translucent Ham Sandwich Band) and Eric Ward on bass (of the late Marvin Gaye’s band). I have several different guitar players I work with, on this particular performance we’ll have (Nightcrawler) Noah Figlin joining us.”

“It will be an epic show,” Byrne said. “Come say hi.”