Carlos Niño


Carlos Niño is from Los Angeles, and has been a vital part of that city’s music scene for almost 30 years. He started out as a radio DJ when he was still a teenager, and expanded from that into putting on shows, releasing records, producing sessions for artists, performing and doing just about everything else that a life in music will eventually drop in someone’s lap. He’s developed really long creative relationships with two other people who’ve been on this podcast in the past, vocalist Dwight Trible and percussionist Adam Rudolph, both of whom work at least part of the time in the area that’s currently governed by the term spiritual jazz.

If you look around, you’ll see Carlos’s name on a lot of really fascinating projects. He makes records as Carlos Niño and Friends, which is a good way of summarizing his methods and his aesthetic — he gets together with people who he considers friends and kindred spirits, they make music together, and he assembles it all. But the people he calls friends are some of the most fascinating musicians around right now. He’s worked with Shabaka Hutchings, with Kamasi Washington, with Makaya McCraven, with Laraaji, and right now he’s very involved with André 3000’s New Blue Sun project. He was one of the leaders of the sessions that produced the album, and he’s also part of Andre’s live band.

Carlos has a new album coming out later this month called Placenta. It’s his third release for International Anthem, following a previous Carlos Niño and Friends album and a duo release with South African pianist Thandi Ntuli, and it features a ton of guests, including frequent collaborators like Nate Mercereau and Surya Botofasina, as well as saxophonist Sam Gendel, drummer Deantoni Parks, Adam Rudolph, André 3000, and many, many others. It’s a mix of live recordings and studio sessions, some of which go as far back as 2018, and they’ve all been reconstituted and overdubbed and collaged with vocals, field recordings, and all kinds of sound design into something really unique and kaleidoscopic. Although it’s got elements of jazz and elements of New Age music, it’s really hard to describe or categorize and it’s not the kind of thing you can just put on in the background and chill with. It demands your attention. When it comes out, I recommend you sit with it and see what you get out of it. I think you’ll find it very rewarding.

I’m really glad I had the chance to talk to Carlos Niño. He’s a really interesting guy with a very open and optimistic creative philosophy that I think will be inspiring to those of you who make art yourselves, whether it’s music or something else, and even to those of you who are just interested in art and creativity generally. Thanks as always for listening.