Nicole McCabe is a saxophonist and composer from Marin County, California. She works and lives in Los Angeles, where she earned a Master’s from University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, studying with Vince Mendoza, Patrice Rushen, and Russell Ferrante. She previously earned a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies at Portland State University, where she received the William Bradford and Janet Hughes Mersereau Jazz Scholarship.
McCabe recently released her sophomore album as a bandleader, Landscapes, on the Spanish label Fresh Sound. Inspired by picturesque drives up the West Coast, the record features her first Los Angeles quartet, including Paul Cornish, Myles Martin, and her partner Logan Kane, as well as Knower’s Genevieve Artadi. It stretches McCabe’s hard bop roots into soothing and stylish new territory, informed by an expansive melodic sensibility.
Moving to Los Angeles has shaped McCabe’s approach as a composer and player, as she’s embedded in the city’s interdisciplinary scenes brewing outside the academy and around jazz boundary-stretching labels like Brainfeeder, Leaving, and her home base Minaret Records. She’s a mainstay at local hotspots Sam First, Altamira Sound, and ETA, where she’s performed with Rachel Eckroth, Tina Raymond, Dave Harrington, and more.
McCabe’s 2020 debut, Introducing Nicole McCabe, featured her Portland teachers Alan Jones, Jon Lakey, and George Colligan, in whose band Theoretical Planets she performed. The album helped launch the underground label Minaret, which later released Mini Giraffe, the 2021 album from McCabe and Kane’s electro-jazz project Dolphin Hyperspace. More recently, McCabe released the EP Orbit with beatmakers 10.4 Rog and Vooo, and featured on Jacob Mann Big Band’s Greatest Hits Volume 3.
A prolific collaborator, McCabe has also played with David Binney, John Escreet, Anna Butterss, Henry Solomon, Sasha Berliner, Louis Cole, Thumpasaurus, and more. She recently completed Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead residency at the Kennedy Center, where she studied under Jason Moran. While at USC, she received the Los Angeles Jazz Society’s Jeff Clayton Memorial New Note Award and the Keep an Eye International Jazz Award.
McCabe has taught music since she was in high school. She currently teaches undergraduate students at California State University, Northridge, as well as Los Angeles public school students through the Musicians at Play Foundation and the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz program Jazz in the Classroom. She owns a one-eyed dog named Buster.
“There is humility and respect in her playing, a true cognizance of the tradition from where her art comes from, and a feeling of surrender to where the music is directionally headed.”