Neil Carson is a saxophonist and composer/arranger whose musical ventures span many genres and disciplines. His work as both a performer and composer is notable for its mixing of jazz, pop, and rock influences to form a new, refreshing but melodic sensibility. From 2010-2016 Neil studied at the University of Miami's acclaimed Frost School of Music, attended by such luminaries as Pat Metheny, Maria Schneider, Ben Folds, Bruce Hornsby and others. Earning a bachelor's in Jazz Saxophone and a master's in Studio Jazz Composition, Neil also spent three years as a member of the award-winning Frost Concert Jazz Band, and has played with artists such as Chick Corea, Bobby McFerrin, Terrence Blanchard, Steve Miller, Benny Golson, Arturo Sandoval, Dave Liebman, Lucie Arnaz, Maria Schneider, Barry Manilow, and others.
As a composer/arranger, Neil's work includes compositions for big band, vocal jazz ensemble, symphony orchestra, and small groups. His composition "Ballad for the Hopeless Romantic" for was awarded first prize in the ASMAC Bill Conti Big Band Arranging/Composing Competition, and was performed and recorded live in Los Angeles with the Kim Richmond Jazz Orchestra. His work has been commissioned by high schools throughout the Chicago area, including New Trier High School in Winnetka and Glenbrook South High School in Glenview. As a vocal arranger, Neil has been called on to write arrangements for top-caliber artists such as vocalists Cyrille Aimee and Becca Stevens, and his arrangement of the Harry Warren tune "I Had the Craziest Dream" was performed by the Downbeat award-winning collegiate vocal ensemble Pacific Standard Time at California State University Long Beach, as well as Frost Extensions at the Next Generation Jazz Competition in Monterey, CA, where the group took first place. Most recently Neil’s composition Listen was selected for exhibition at the 2019 ISJAC Symposium in Greeley, CO. This piece is also featured on New Nostalgia’s 2019 debut album.
Neil is an active jazz educator: from 2018-2019 he was a member of the jazz faculty at Midwest Young Artists Conservatory (MYAC), a top-ranked youth music program in Highwood, Illinois. Neil also currently serves as jazz combo director at Hersey High School, as well private instructor at a number of high schools on the North Shore. Also in demand as a guest artist and clinician, Neil has served as an adjudicator for the 2017 North Shore Jazz Fest and as guest artist/clinician at Glenbrook South High School, as well as a vocal jazz audition judge for the 2016 ILMEA District 7 Festival.
Neil's musical influences are diverse, ranging from Earth, Wind and Fire to Sonny Stitt, from Cannonball Adderly to Metallica, and from Peter Gabriel to Paul Motian. Neil’s most recent musical project, New Nostalgia, released its debut album in April 2019—available for preview on the MEDIA page.
(Cover photo by Rebecca Ciprus)