Bassist Aidan Carroll Leading a New Musical Generation
By Jake Sorich - #trrnews
As we get older, we tend to discover more about who we really are. Our likes, dislikes, passions and goals all start to come more into focus.
For Aidan Carroll, a talented New York bassist, that clarifying moment came when he decided that he wanted to explore more music in genres beyond jazz, even though he's etched a name for himself in the jazz world.
"As you get older you start figuring out who you are and start narrowing it down a bit more," he says. "Throughout the years I've played many different types of music. For example I used to be more into the avant-garde scene here and then I've done straight-ahead gigs, lots of modern jazz, then I toured with a rock-soul band for four years so I've been all over the place. But, I just felt like recently I had to do something real different and sometimes you just have to let life lead you a little bit."
That something "different" isn't just trying new genres, though. He says it also involves producing and co-writing original songs, something he's never done too much before now.
Carroll's most recent single, the aptly titled "Priority," showcases that new path. It also features the talented Brooklyn singer Melissa McMillan on vocals. It's a breezy, pop-inspired track that sounds if it could have been written by Stevie Wonder.
While Mr. Wonder did serve as one of their influences, the track was produced by Carroll and co-written by both Carroll and McMillan. Carroll says it was a great learning experience.
"This song ('Priority') was just simply a collaboration with Melissa," he says. "I've been learning more about how to put tracks together and write songs, which are totally different skills than playing jazz, in a way. We just started from the bass line and chords and it really grew from there."
Carroll says that McMillan is a co-writer on the track, mentioning that she not only provided the vocals and harmony, she also contributed a different idea to strengthen the key-change at the bridge.
"She helped me solve a musical problem ... we had a melody and I was trying to figure out a way to get out of the bridge into the chorus, and she made an interesting lyrical suggestion that helped with that moment," he says.
While Carroll might be digging more on R&B, hip hop and blues these days, he was quick to add that he'll never leave his jazz roots behind -- they're too central to his identity.
For instance, Carroll, 33, made his name as a talented jazz bassist in the New York scene, where he's lived since 2006. His first album, 2015's "Original Vision" published by Truth Revolution Records, helped lift Carroll into a new level of attention. In his review, Sebastien Helary, co-founder of the jazz website NextBop said of the album, "Original Vision is an astonishing debut by a skillful composer, a thoroughly enjoyable listen."
Carroll's jazz experience has also helped him become a much sought-after performer. Over the years he's shared the stage with such artists as Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, Warren Haynes, John Abercrombie, Ben Monder, Nasheet Waits, Adam Cruz and more. He has performed at such international and stateside festivals as the Amazonas Jazz Festival, Pontevedra Jazz Festival, Bonnaroo, Telluride Jazz Festival, Mountain Jam and others.
No matter what kind of music he plays or who he collaborates with, he says he's able to "vibe" on the sound of what's being played and place it into context based on the expected touchstones for what makes the genre what it is.
"You definitely need to put in the time listening to records and different musicians and artists," he says. "That's one area I've always tried to excel. I've always been an avid listener and sometimes I think I'm more of a music listener and appreciator than performer. I can get the same vibe listening to something as I can playing it, for sure."
Carroll came to the Big Apple to attend The City College of New York where he worked with mentor John Patitucci for two years and earned his Masters in Jazz Performance.
He has recorded with artists like Fred Hersch, Ralph Alessi, Seamus Blake, and toured with Dan Tepfer, Logan Richardson and Zimbabwean singer Chiwoniso.
He's still performing jazz in clubs across New York and elsewhere, but has simply found a new challenge in songwriting, producing and performing different types of songs.
Carroll says that he is not about to leave what has helped establish his career as a full-time artist, either, adding that he'll continue to perform and tour with his main collaborator, vocalist Lisa Fischer.
When performing with vocalists such as her in particular, Carroll says he aims to complement the singer while also carrying the heartbeat of the song with his instrument.
"I guess I'm fit for accompanying a singer, and I think there's something special about that for a bass player," he says.
Fischer is probably best known as the former Rolling Stones background singer, but she's also had a long career as a solo performer. Carroll says what makes her so special is that she possesses unique elements in her style that makes everything he does, or anyone performing with her, that much better.
"She combines all the things I'm personally able to do as an instrumentalist on bass. There's improvising involved, grooves to be played, some rock, some R&B and I get to play both electric and upright bass. So, it's been a real nice development through all these years."
As for what's next for him, Carroll says he's looking to release a new album with self-written/self-produced tracks next year.
"I have a whole other album almost done and it's an amalgamation of this new path for me," he says. "Plus it's a mix of me producing, writing, singing and playing different instruments."