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Carole nelson trio

International Women's Day: In Conversation with the BAN BAM Awardees - Carole Nelson

  • Interviews / Q&As

IMC chats with BAN BAM Awardee Carole Nelson

BAN BAM Commission & Development Award is a commissioning and career development opportunity for female and gender minority composers in jazz or improvised music, living on the island of Ireland (North and South) from Improvised Music Company (IMC) and Moving on Music (MOM). Through a detailed analysis process, the judges unanimously rated three outstanding composers particularly highly – Meilana Gillard, Bianca Gannon, and Carole Nelson – and chose them to be awarded the commission in the latest round.

London-born and living in Ireland since 1986, Carole Nelson is in her fifth decade of creative music-making. She recently released a third album with the Carole Nelson Trio, Night Vision. With Nelson on piano and saxophone, bassist Cormac O'Brien and drummer Dominic Mullan, the trio explores more free improvisation as well as composed tunes.

She is currently a member of the 8-women art collective Na Cailleacha, exploring new avenues of creativity in film and video, using electronics and ambient sounds.

Tell us about the type of music you create; what are the key qualities, themes, styles, influences?

I have written and recorded music in many styles - funk, pop, dance, opera, choral, ambient. When it comes to jazz, I'm always looking for a new way in - it could be anything, a word, a phrase, an abstract painting or listening to the great masters and hearing fresh things. Now is a really good time to say that Wayne Shorter has been my biggest inspiration, as a composer, saxophonist and human being. He remained fresh and exploratory right to the end and gave us such beautiful music. His quartet encourages me to let go even more and let it all flow in the moment.

What are some challenges you’ve had to overcome as an artist?

My biggest challenge was physical. I damaged both arms and couldn't play for a couple of years. I came back to the piano slowly and carefully. I think this experience influenced my composition, allowing more space, silence and deep listening into the process. Sometimes I regretted not having a super fast technique, but that's the ego talking and I'm happy with what I can do.

Tell us about some things/people/initiatives that have set you up for success in your career?

I want to thank Allen Smith for inviting me to form a piano trio in 2015. This was a challenge and a kick start to what has been a wonderful journey with the trio, and we keep developing together. I also thank the Arts Council for supporting me financially in the making of our 2nd album Arboreal and the recording of Night Vision. Being supported gives such a lift for confidence and commitment. Then there are so many people, teachers, other musicians, things said, help given all along the way.

What projects do you have coming up this year?

This year I will be seeing the BanBam composition come to fruition which is very exciting. I'm hoping this will lead to a new recording project. I am involved in collaborative projects across art forms: a film with artist Barbara Freeman, an ecoart project for wetland restoration, and continuing work/exhibitions with Na Cailleacha.

Who are some of the Women in Music from the past and present who’ve made an impact on you, as well as one/s to watch who you expect will make their mark into the future?

I have to put Joni Mitchell first - she had a huge impact on me as a teenager and I started songwriting then. And Nina Simone of course. In the 70s/80s there was a scene of women musicians in London and we supported each other when we could. I sense that that is happening here now in Ireland and I'm so impressed by the young talented women I get to hear.

Can you give us a sneak peak of what to expect in your BAN BAM commission?

Ha ha, top secret! Just to say I'm toying with going electric on this one....we'll see. There's a theme based around a recording of a now-extinct bird. It's called The Last Song.

Please share a track to celebrate International Women’s Day

This was a tough decision. I've gone for Cassandra Wilson doing Run the Voodoo down

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