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Columbia City Tribune


Saxophonist Neil Welch is recognized as a major voice of the Seattle jazz and experimental music fields. His work is a menagerie of resonant musical styles, spanning avant-garde jazz, modern composition, solo saxophone, North Indian Hindustani music, and electronic sound processing.   Downbeat Magazine called Neil "an impassioned tenor player" and All About Jazz calls his work "stunning and extraordinary." Neil is  dedicated to expanding the saxophone's role in modern improvisation and composition.

Neil is a co-founder and former artistic curator for the acclaimed Seattle experimental music series the Racer Sessions, he is an organizer for the avant-garde event organization and record label Table and Chairs Music, and highly involved in music education.  Neil is co-founder of the Seattle Saxophone Institute music camp and Program Coordinator for the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra Jazz Scholars music education program. 

Born in Edmonds, WA Neil was called to 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 he 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 transformative. From 2004-2008 Neil studied traditional North Indian classical music from sitar master Pandit Debi Prasad Chatterjee, whom he now performs alongside. Neil had the honor of recording a raga with Pandit Chatterjee on his debut album Narmada (2008).  

Neil has 6 album releases on Table and Chairs Music, in addition to dozens of recorded guest appearances. His longstanding drum/saxophone duo 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.

Educational Work

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 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 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 SE and SW Seattle. Click the links below to learn more about Neil's passion for non-profit  and private lesson work.