Meet Melissa Carroll!
Name/instrument(s): Melissa Carroll, tenor sax (and alto, bari, flute, oboe, clarinet)
How long with NoPo? Since November-ish of 2013
What drew you to the band? I just loved the sense of community and how everyone was so low-key and appreciative. I really loved the relaxed atmosphere.
What were you doing musically before NoPo? Before Nopo I had only recently relocated from Singapore to the area about nine months earlier. I started my Master's at PSU in the fall of 2013. I played in a lot of different bands and even worked on contract in Singapore. And before that? I've always been musical...when I was really little I used to sing. Not so much now. Nobody wants to hear that. I took piano lessons briefly when I was about six but it just didn't click with me. It wasn't until a few years later when I got my hands on a clarinet that I found a musical instrument I really liked. I kept learning new instruments as they came along in my life.
Are you playing in other bands? Yes, I play in a few other bands! I have a band called The Flat Nines, which I co-lead with my friend and bandmate, guitarist/vocalistTommy. We do a lot of hard bop, post bop, funk, and originals. My own personal project is Subdomination, it's basically just my jams, tunes that I'm really enjoy playing and whatever else might come along. We did a Gigi Gryce night at Girasole Pizza in St. Johns that featured David Valdez and other really stellar players! I also play in an event/corporate gig/wedding band called The Groove, it's current Top's 40's kind of material as well as some retro pop tunes.
In addition to playing music, what other passions do you enjoy in your life? I really enjoy weight lifting although I haven't been able to get in to a solid routine for quite some time! I also love to ride my bike. I like listening to Podcasts, particularly Serial, FiveThirtyEight, I Seem Fun: The Diary of Jen Kirkman, and Professor Blastoff (when it was on. It ended about a year ago and I'm still bummed).
Let’s talk about big band jazz. What is it about this music that really jazzes you? Big Band is so classy. In its heyday, Big Band was this brief period in jazz from about 1928-1945 that was mostly popular dance music of the time but later on expanded into the realm of art music and avant garde. It's such a diverse genre that brings together such a great community of people. The really great masters of big band knew how to create a vibe and lure people in to their music. Composers like Duke Ellington created such rich colors with the instrumentation, compositions like Far East Plaza Suite are some of my absolute favorites. I love sharing the vibe of big band with as many people as I can.
Who are the composers/band leaders/musicians/records that have influenced your music the most? It's changed quite a bit over the years but some of the ones that stand out would be the album Time Out by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Kid-A by Radiohead, anything by Bjork, I love Lee Konitz, Duke Ellington, Bobby Hutcherson, Wayne Shorter, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, the second classic quintet of Miles Davis. I would be remiss as a sax player if I didn't mention Charlie Parker or John Coltrane. Some current artists/bands that I'm into are Thundercat and Sleater-Kinney (the new album is amazing!).
Talk about your most challenging experience(s), so far, playing in an 18-piece big band? The most challenging thing I find is to keep people focused. When everyone is completely locked into the music it can be such a powerful and rewarding experience. When people are focused, I don't have to worry. When things get chaotic and unfocused, that's when I start to pace and go into "director panic" mode.
What’s been the highlight, so far, playing with NoPo? There have been so many gigs that I've enjoyed playing at--all the festivals and street fairs, private events, weddings--but I think the one I enjoyed the most was when we were the band for Karen Tobin's poetry book party. I love the events that bring different communities of people together that normally might not cross paths.