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Take Five With Neil Alexander

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Neil Alexander: Jazz musician Neil Alexander was performing, composing and arranging by age 14. In 2007 he released Tugging At The Infinite, his fourth CD with his contemporary electric/acoustic jazz ensemble NAIL.

As well as managing his own electric and acoustic ensembles, he does sessions as both player and programmer, and works with a variety of Modern Dance and Experimental Theater companies. He has received grants from Meet The Composer & the NYSCA; performed works by Stravinsky, Ives, & Cage (among others); taught clinics at both high school and college level in music technology; produced small venue and large outdoor concerts; and done sound design and music concrete. Neil has composed over 200 works for small ensembles. In addition to NAIL he performs solo, and is involved with several different ensembles including the Mahavishnu Project. Neil and his group NAIL are members of Chamber Music America, and are involved in educational programs on both the High School and College Level.


Piano, synthesizers, keyboards, drums.

Teachers and/or influences? Primarily self-taught. As a kid, studied with pianist Bill Printz. One lesson with JoAnne Brackeen; another one with Andy LaVerne.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... Funny, but when I heard Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon. The idea of creating worlds of sound was very appealing to me, as was the idea of a larger keyboard rig. You know—more then just the piano.

Your sound and approach to music: I am dedicated to honoring all my influences—that results in a wide ranging sound, including elements of ambient music, modern classical, post-bop, progressive rock and high energy jazz fusion. My approach is to combine all these elements into something new, a sort of musical alchemy.

Your teaching approach: Every student is treated individually. There are certain things you'll need to know, but I follow their lead in terms of what their interests are.

Your dream band:

Currently, if I could choose from among everyone on the scene today, I'd probably start with drummer Dennis Chambers and bassist Victor Bailey. The list of whom I'd really like to, and in fact intend, to work with is quite long, and come from all styles of music:

Wayne Shorter; John Scofield; John McLaughlin; Jack DeJohnette; Ray Gomez; Billy Cobham; Jan Hammer; Jerry Goodman; Allan Holdsworth; Victor Bailey; Dennis Chambers; Omar Hakim; Pat Metheny;Dave Holland; Chick Corea; Herbie Hancock;Brian Eno; Christian McBride; Vernon Reid; DJ Logic;Joni Mitchell; Squarepusher; Beck; Jeff Beck; Victor Wooten;Imogen Heap; Björk David Bowie; Jan Garbarek; Bill Frisell; Stevie Wonder;Robert Fripp; Adrian Belew; Paco Sery; Richard Bona; Vinnie Colaiuta; Narada Michael Walden; Carlos Santana; David Byrne; Marc Johnson; Eddie Gomez; Joe Satriani; Peter Erskine; Terry Bozzio; Jon Christensen; Stanley Clarke; Richard Thompson; Peter Gabriel; Scott Henderson; Trilok Gurtu; Charlie Haden; Medeski, Martin & Wood; Eberhard Weber; Zakir Hussain; Mark Egan.

Favorite venue:

After many years on the road, my favorite venue has emerged: The Keswick Theater in Glenside PA. Awesome crew, beautiful facility and kick-ass catering. :)

The first Jazz album I bought was: Deodato's first album, Prelude. Got me into arranging.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? Me? I don't claim to be contributing anything important, but I would say I am bringing the synthesizer into traditional jazz; expanding the sonic vocabulary and stirring the style stew, looking for new flavors.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? Embrace new ideas. And also...embrace new ideas. Jazz needs to evolve to survive. Allow it.

What is in the near future? Oh gosh, so many things: 1) Solo piano CD (3??);
2) New quartet;
3) Best of NAIL: Live & unreleased trax;
3) Electronica CD & remixes;
4) Arranging major orchestral work for jazz octet;
5) Become a certified Ableton trainer;
6) Mahavishnu Project—new recordings/tour dates.

By Day:

Dance accompanist at SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a: ..a rock musician...?

Photo Credit

Courtesy of Neil Alexander


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