Neil was born in Edmonds, WA where he developed a passion for the saxophone at an early age. While in high school, he participated in the famed Essentially Ellington Competition in New York and was awarded the Outstanding Tenor Saxophone Soloist Award by Wynton Marsalis. At the age of 17 Neil was also awarded a full scholarship to attend the Vail Jazz Foundation in Colorado. He went on to study at the University of WA, graduating with a B.M. in Jazz Studies in 2007, but it was Neil's own musical curiosities outside of college that proved to be the most artistically productive. From 2004-2008 Neil studied traditional North Indian classical music from sitar master Pandit Debit Prasad Chatterjee, whom he later performed with on rare occasion. Neil had the honor of recording a raga with Pandit Chatterjee on his debut album Narmada (2008). The study of North Indian classical music planted the seeds for much of Neil's work to come, including a yearning for sound resonance and a deep connection to melody, harmony and rhythm in musical forms of many kinds.
Neil is co-director of the Seattle Saxophone Institute, a summer music camp for Middle and High School students interested in a sound-immersive educational curriculum. Neil teaches saxophone privately throughout the Seattle area in addition to rural Whidbey Island, and often provides clinics throughout the US while on tour. He is committed to teaching student populations in low-income and rural areas, and maintains a sliding scale lesson fee depending on family income. Neil is an instructional coach and Program Coordinator for the SRJO Jazz Scholars and SYSO Musical Pathways Project, each of which support music teachers in challenging educational environments in Southeast and Southwest Seattle. Click the links below to learn more about Neil's passion for non-profit and private lesson work.
"WILLING TO SOUND OFF FROM THE SHADOWS...BRILLIANT"
(Columbia City Tribune)
Saxophonist Neil Welch is recognized as a major voice of the Seattle jazz and experimental music fields. He is dedicated to expanding the saxophone's role in modern improvisation through the use of multiphonics, electronic sound processing and extensive solo saxophone recordings. Neil is co-founder and performance curator for the acclaimed Seattle experimental music series the Racer Sessions, he is an organizer for the avant-garde event organization Table and Chairs Music, and co-founder of the Seattle Saxophone Institute music camp.
Neil's longstanding duo project Bad Luck, co-run for over a decade with drummer Chris Icasiano, has taken him to nearly every major city in America. Bad Luck gained recognition early on and was named “Outside Jazz Group of the Year” (2011) by Earshot Jazz Magazine. The band tours extensively in venues ranging from divey house shows to universities and performance halls. Other current projects include King Tears Bat Trip, a band inspired by Haitian Voodoo trance music that has garnered a cult following around the world.
In 2013 Neil embarked on 12 Moons, a wildly ambitious project where he documented a single solo improvisation each day for one year. Each of the 365 improvisations included a carefully written artistic statement and graphic--all were released online daily for free. Since early 2014, Neil has continued this work with the ongoing series Continuous Resonance, in which he has documented over 300 solo recordings in the last two years alone. Through 12 Moons and Continuous Resonance Neil has shown a commitment to expanding the resonant possibilities of the saxophone, and works tirelessly to document his improvisations in a variety of spaces. Sites have included a WWII fallout shelter, a garbage dump, an alpine lake 30 miles into the North Cascade mountains, parking garages, desert landscapes and much more.
Neil has released 6 albums under his own name, including: Narmada (2008), Boxwork (2011), Iron Creek (2011), Sleeper (2011), 12 Tiny Explosions (2013), and the Response Album (2014). Boxwork was honored as one of the Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2012 (All About Jazz Magazine), a publication which has also called his work “stunning and extraordinary.” Neil was named Emerging Artist of the Year (2008) and Best Outside Jazz Group: Bad Luck (2011) by Earshot Jazz Magazine. He has gained honors in publications throughout the US, including Downbeat Magazine, All About Jazz, local periodicals such as Seattle's City Arts, The Stranger magazine, the Seattle Times, and major national news outlets such as The Guardian.