Coming down from 22 show in 26 days in Europe for a few hours in Mexico City before Cumbre Tajin Festival.
The world is less scared of each other than we’re all led to believe, but more scared of each other than we need to be. 
I am forever grateful to the people we have met that put in the work to invite us to their communities. We are all time-short, illusory or not, living in the tech work-tainment world, and are offered countless distractions that keep us from doing things like going to concerts of new music. It is increasingly hard to engage people in the unpredictable. We are experts quickly. It takes people with real initiative and fire, crazy people, to make live creative music work. It can, and does, and did across 6 countries in towns from Paris to the Slovenian countryside. But it takes heroes (relative I know).
Sometimes the people that make these shows go are called promoters, but really these are community organizers. People who have a vision and work to realize it, often times their only reward the joy in sharing and perhaps their personal enjoyment of the artistic expression that takes place. I believe in this work and what we do together now more than ever. The quality of the relationships we have created with people across the world by way of music, humor, empathy is all hope at a time when hope is thin.

We do not have to allow our art, our relationships, our hopes to be dictated by a mass market conformist mentality. We are all far better, wiser, more compassionate. It only takes vision, belief, and work.

As an artist, I am constantly reminded on these tours that approval, as fine as it may feel, is not the end. The process of creating is it’s own reward.

As a listener, I am reminded I have to stay engaged, curious, and pro-active. The reward is inspiration.

The way forward is resisting the homogenized thought, art, market, and concept by offering committed alternatives.

Grateful to Hernan and Aaron for being two parts of a three fisted democracy functioning in all it’s appropriate disfunction, an endless exercise in empathy.

Hello. Hola.
Im Todd. Soy Todd, here with a bunch of friends in Mexico.
I feel fortunate to be a resident of Mexico.
Me siento afortunado ser residente de Mexico.
This country where I spend much of my time is a beautiful place of colorful personality, people, and culture, though not without some problems, most of them tied to greed and a corrupt politic, much like the country I am from. The USA elected a bad bad guy, not unlike the guy here in Mexico. The USA, a place that gave me many opportunities for which I am grateful, was seen, perhaps not universally, as the example of reason and innovation. That is changing.
We cannot let bluster and ego from marginally elected officials divide us as people. The Mexican people, and the norteamericanos I know get along, love, have families, create business and art together. We make use of each other's talents and cultures to create something better for both of us. It is not always easy but we are committed to decency.
Don't let these assholes tell us we are incapable of progress, compassion, and work together. We are better than both of our presidents. We are the people that actually do the living, the creating, and the compromise.

Agradezco la oportunidad de vivir y trabajar aquí, y me da coraje, pena, vergüenza lo que esta sucediendo ahora. Prometo resistir en palabra y acción. A trabajar.

Last year I watched USA election results on my cel phone on a 16 hour bus from Patagonia to Buenos Aires in Argentina. I watched on the New York Times site, reception coming in and out, as their dial graphic turned from 85 percent blue probability to 95 percent on the end over the course of a couple of hours. 
I was very sad and like many very shocked, not because I was adamantly "with her", but because I was "against him", of course in retrospect many of us see the problem in this. As the circus of tweets and brash bravado and lack of decency continue, I continue to be disappointed and embarrassed, but what happened has encouraged me to consider a lot of what I think I know as our truths, decencies, and motives as an individual and as global society, and my part in it all. How can I be of use? Maybe I can, or maybe I must, embrace this time as all of ours to be be wide eyed in creating the future we want to live, to be empowered and emboldened by the threat of the soulless and transcend the tired discourse and entertainment politic with real, dedicated work of vision and empathy. Im going to have to work harder at communicating honestly, being the type of person I believe in and can love, and defending the dignity of others. Certainty is over for a while and at points this might be good.
People we are smart, but we've lost our art.
We have created an often disfunctional society in its values, often without looking, with the most evident symptom being the type of people we reward with our highest offices, business and finance law, and commercial arts. It's not just them, the big and mighty culpable, it is me and all of us in how I define success and progress and what we look for in what we communicate. The good news is that pretty much all of us know this now. The illusions are growing thin even as the deluded cling harder to old ideas. We recognize that our global society is, in ways, destructive and non-functional, in others not, as I am not a fatalist. How we react to this realization is going to be our story. Can we take responsibility in creating the answers? It is very confusing to know what to do, but I feel confident that it comes in honest interaction amongst ourselves, and the quieting of our "consume man and object" animal.
I don't know what your job is now but I know with clarity that mine has to be to create. To act on all things I think have to be better. To dream ruthlessly and wild in wonder. To not allow success to be defined by greed. To respect, create together, create empathy with action and real work together.
Music is the way I know how to dream, create, overcome, be absurd, be hopeful. It is a constant personal savior and I see it work for and with others. Im grateful to have the opportunity to do this with people from all over the world that look all kinds of ways both in and out.
This next year Im going to be working. 
#BeTheEvolution

My apartment in Mexico City is on Rumania street. The whole city is avant orchestra, sound of surreal, blood wild.

Here’s a song (piece of music?) off the “Chant” record that attempts to share the sounds of the street in morning at its most colorful. It is indeed an experiment and not meant for late night listening nor any traditional kind of dancing.

I recorded the neighborhood trash collector, 40 or so friends in my apartment, some friends in Minnesota chanting street advertisements from MX City translated literally to English  for humor’s sake (“The repairing of the machine”…”little hot ones”…”corn bake!”), and passing trucks that have loudspeakers fastened to their roofs.

 

I love living where I do, not sure it would be for everyone, but there’s a lot to take from if you want to make music, maybe too much.

 

The repairing of the machine.

 

 

Here are some of my favorite guitarists out there making new music in new ways with the guitar.

- David Tronzo

  You gotta know Tronzo. Slide master, artist all over the guitar, percussive hero. I once hung in his living room and filmed him playing solo. 

   

- Marc Ribot

  Ribot has his feet in the grave and half a leg in the coffin at all times, playing beautiful solo classically inspired pieces or speaking his piece on the evils of the corporate internet over post-punk bite. 

 

 

- Stone Gossard, Pearl Jam

  He writes guitar tunes that are as much funk, blues, psych as arena rock, always just far enough away from the obvious. 

 

 

- Leo Kottke

  Its acoustic music as much Motown in feel as it is Appalachia. There is beauty but also grit, and humor.

 

 

- Bill Frisell 

  He plays lyrical and its all melody.

 

- Larry Campbell

  Americana without the false lenses of nostalgia, just the real shit. Makes Bob Dylan’s records he plays hang down in the swamp. Ive seen him with Dylan and Levon Helm. Parts!

  

 

- Neil Young

  I think he's really a noise guitarist. Put him in a Zorn band and he'd be at home.

 

 

 

 

 

Im very proud of this new A Love Electric record and all we have done - and not done - with this band. We have allowed the music to guide us. Thats what has gotten us to places from Managua to Berlin between genres and markets and all the other stuff that music, when left alone, doesn't pay attention to. We love the process over a sense of achievement. Our reward is the act of creating, whether it is a song or a community or a relationship.

This record is a document of that process, the one I've been married to since I fell in love with song and sound when I was a kid and the process we've committed to with A Love Electric because none of the 3 of us have the option not to. We need to make music. There is hope in it.

I hope you get a chance to listen.

Big love to Hernan Hecht for producing and Aarón Cruz for making the music and process work.

 

 

Saturday I visited "El Piru", a "barrio" (neighborhood, more like "hood" in English), in Mexico City.

The streets are polluted with trash, alcoholics and addicts wander. People laugh and hang out and serve food from their garages.

Its the worst and the best of us in a few blocks. Triumph is everywhere, as is resignation. There is no in between. If you thrive here, live  a life, you are a hero, if you are a hero, you thrive, if the circumstances overcome you, you disappear. No in between.

I sang a couple of my songs in the garage of a friend who runs an anti-violence organization along with his wife and two kids. They tell me stories of their business, love for their kids, their schools, the music they love, but also of murder and thieves.

Work and laughter are heroic given the circumstance. Resignation is understandable and makes me question my own conviction for living, and if empathy has a just ending.

What do we do with this world we have created?

 

I'm so very grateful to all the people that have been kind and accepting of me in Mexico. Your country is incredible and there is no place in the world like it and no place I'd rather live, create, learn and share what I love to do with music. 

Tonight we played in a big theater in Morelos at a jazz festival organized by students. What they accomplished, the venues, promo, audience, fair pay for musicians is the best we could hope for as musicians, and our way forward. If there's no festival, we make one, no venue, we build one, no market, we create one. Playing to this amount of people in venues like this playing the music I, now we, want to and need to is something that couldn't happen where I am from. 

I think it's not about better or worse or competition, it's about the personality of the culture here. What I was looking for I found in Mexico, and something in what I do is good for some people here. If I can be in a place where what I love and work at is useful not just for me, but for others, I'm realizing there really isn't anything left to want. 
Here in Mexico, more than anywhere else in the world where I play, when we show up and lay out all we have in its human, imperfect, uncalculated state, people are there to embrace us. 

Thank you thank you to all who support our art, the arts, the promise of art, it's inquisitive and empathetic nature. It saves people. Saved me from the worst.

Thanks Carlos Kubli for the photo.

 

 

I am here to declare my own comfort. Does its declaration imply its existence is not? Perhaps only the years will tell.

I started playing music because I had to. In 7th grade I wrote a song in English class called "Need to Fly". Thats the first one I remember anyhow. It just happened.

After a while, I wanted to be good at guitar, but also I wanted to be recognized, celebrated, and maybe for people to call me a genius and a hero like they did of David Byrne, or Kurt Cobain, or the Rza, which is what I was listening to in those days.

I went on lots of tours, made lots of records, and have had dreams shattered and realized.

Ive come to realize the "shattering" of dreams is not that of failure, or even a valid disappointment, it is the disappearance of illusion. The illusion is that I (we) need to be loved or celebrated to validate my (our) artistic impulse. Surviving doing it is enough.

What had me writing songs and making noise when I was a kid is what I have to share. And its not just about me, its about all of us needing to create something that is ours, that turns into everyone's, whether its heard or danced or cried to or not, its all the same song, its everyone's and it sings itself if we let it.

This might not bode well for the mass acceptance of our band or its functioning within an already determined market (looking at you "world music" scene), but I am feeling good about it.

The shows on this A Love Electric tour, up Central America and Mexico, sometimes to 5 kids in a music school, hundreds of hippies in a beach town, or at festivals and jazz clubs have me back grounded in the reality that music is not what is on the television.

Goodnight from Sayulita, Nayarit, Mexico.

A Love Electric #WonderTour

We are being overcome by our telephones. Below is a photo of couple guys our for some coffee together in Chiapas. They haven't talked in the 30 minutes I have been here. I don't claim innocence on telephone addiction, but this eating with one hand while checking the phone - thumb scrolling - with the other is really remarkable.

We gave a clinic this morning to young music students here in Chiapas. I wish I could start every day that way. It wakes the altruist and provides perspective, and context, to what I am working on, and what I believe is important. Most of what I do, honestly, is by impulse, but sharing ideas and experience with these kids, I'm forced to reflect on what I am doing, why, and where I might be useful.

This tour has been really special thus far. We have performed in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, and now out for a run of dates in Mexico, equal parts concerts and work with communities.

Every country is really distinct. People have been good to us. If you think Mexico is impuntual, visit Nicaragua. People might show up the next day, true story. Not a dig, just reality, they will be the first to tell you this.

“Good Morning”
The pretty Honduran girl, leather jacket and nice face, no color but her skin’s
Asks me to watch her brown purse
While I sit waiting for the bus in a country that loved me quick

She is walking across the station to buy her ticket
San Pedro Sula, the most dangerous city in the world, this is what I read first
And yet no children are pulling guns from their bedrooms
To spit bullets like words across the desks with hearts and old teenage lover’s names scratched in them

She is back now,
No, just passing by, going to the bathroom
Her beauty boots are untied and slapping the floor in dance
Deep brown scarf around her neck
She really trusts me, this is taking a bit
Looking for somewhere to charge her phone, the walls, corners, beside the ice cream cooler where they sell waters and sandwiches

I am imagining everyone here has the same father

She is back and has taken me everywhere

 

Chilpancingo, Guerrero 

I took the 7:40 a.m. bus from Mexico City’s south Terminal here. I was carrying two acoustic guitars in a garbage bag, a backpack full of music books and records, and this feeling that I have no idea what I am doing, ever. The guitars and books are for students I met a couple months ago that attend the “normal” teacher’s school in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero. They have a group that sings traditional songs at their school but didn’t have enough instruments, or material, for the interest of the kids who want to participate. 
I question mentioning Ayotzinapa because this is not for grandstanding. It is, I hope, sharing that you can go here and meet people and do things like make music. Divisions are weak are largely illusory. This could be any school, and it has been on other occasions. When you visit schools, and young people, and you grew up where I did and had opportunities I have and you see what others have, and you see these students are you, the same interests, the same crippling doubts, the same wonder they find in song, when you see this and feel it, you fall in love and you keep in touch and you go back, not just to give, but because you get life from it.
I get to Chilpancingo and have only slept a couple hours and am being attacked by ideas. The curse of the idea! I want to make a record of this, or that, and I’m worried if anybody likes this or that or the other and is what Im doing mattering, even to me. This happens often. 
I find a hotel for about 16 dollars a couple blocks from the bus station. I’ve come to really like visiting Guerrero. I never see anyone that looks like me. I love the art, dignity in the faces of the people, food. There is a lot of life, hurt, triumph, a lot of song, everywhere.
I buy my return bus ticket for Sunday upon arrival. The cashier at the bus station says, “You are not Mexican are you?”. No, I am not. He asks me if I have any American coins because he collects them. I reach into my wallet and I have no American cents, but I have some Thai coins, Costa Rican colons, and Japanese Yen. He is very impressed. I give him what I have and he looks very happy.
I have been texting with my friends Rodolfo and Rodrigo, the students I came to visit, and had planned to take the collective van to the school. They tell me its not a great time to travel alone between school and Chilpancingo and they will find a car and come for me, lunch on them. They take care of me. 
I wait for a bit where we are supposed to meet and think maybe they aren’t coming and start to walk up the street back to the hotel. One of them runs up behind me and says, “hey”. They are in a white car, humble, that they borrowed from someone at school to come get me. It doesn’t work very well, the car, but they insist on taking me to lunch and giving me a ride to the center of town where I am going to meet my friend Gopi, the very generous person who arranged my first visits here for a clinic/culture exchange with students.
I give them the guitars and books and records and I think we are both unsure of how to react but are well aware they are gifting me just as much as I am gifting them.
On the short car ride we talk about what they are recording, that one of them is in his student-teacher study right now, traveling to small mountain towns for a week to give classes. He wants to be an elementary school teacher in his home state, but also considers moving to Mexico City to be teach. They talk about making a recording, ask me about mixing and mastering and if I have to do that for my records too. Yes, I know, its a lot. I tell them I think being a teacher is very noble and I did it for a few years but it was hard. I get the sense that although the two of them are grateful for the guitars and the rest, they are happier yet to know that I keep coming back and we have something to talk about, that they might get to make more music because we are friends.
They drop me off and I meet my friend Sarai in the central plaza of town, still home to protesters, the photographs of some of the missing boys from Ayotzinapa hanging from a tree. It is impossibly sad and I feel angry seeing their photographs and knowing the truth is still purposefully hidden. 
Sarai takes me to a different “normal” school, the “Normal del Estado” or state teacher’s school where she is performing in a dance ceremony to celebrate the school’s anniversary. The dances are amazing and the kids at school are bright and funny. I look at them and recall my high school moments, watching the way they interact, the uncertainty, the laughter. I have a lot of music I want to write and walk back to the hotel. 

Thanks to all who support Music Mission for helping us out. I realize each time we go somewhere and get to know new people, I’m the greatest beneficiary of it all.

 

‪#‎SongStory‬ ◆ "Sex in America" ◆ A Love Electric's ‪#‎sonofahero‬

The first pieces of this song were written in 2005 in the basement of a home in South Minneapolis. I remember it was about 4 pm in winter, getting dark, and I was in between my usual early evening emotional cross of 22 year old enthusiastic drunk and self unassured anticipated regret. David Horner was my roommate. He was upstairs in the kitchen doing something and could hear me in the basement writing, with the thin wood door at the top of the stairs hanging open. I had a Roland Fantom keyboard I had inherited that I would use sometimes to sequence ideas. I was singing the line "sex in America, I think I'm losing control" over and over, trying to figure out what chords to put beneath it. I remember thinking all my friends talked about was sex, things about wanting to have sex, wild sex humor, savage sex humor. And I was frustrated in most senses.

David commented later that night he heard me singing and I could tell it made him feel something, maybe that I was yet crazier than he knew, but it had some effect. 

I never found the right way to play the song in those years, and that was about the time I stopped singing for a while, playing instrumental music, but it stuck around long enough to get to the studio with A Love Electric, where Hernan and Aaron did what they do and made it make sense.

They can interpret my ideas better than I ever could, and that we all want them to be realized, and great, is a gift. They see the intent and trust it is real. That kind of love is not easy to find. 

When we recorded this, I started singing the line "my mind is chemical" and it felt like something I wanted to sing forever. I remember Hernan kind of lighting up at the line and coaching me to sing it with more attitude. 

Our last show here in Mexico City there was a guy in the crowd yelling "sex in America, sex in America". It all came around.

 

You can hear "Sex in America" here - https://toddclouser.bandcamp.com/track/sex-in-america

2015 in Review. Yesterday is Now.
◆ JULY ◆
July I got to hook up with a great songwriter from Durango, Lázaro Cristóbal Comala for shows in Mexico City and present #Chant at IMER, Instituto Mexicano de la Radio, but the highlight, and greatest challenge, were these two weeks of shows in Duo with different hero drummers.
Playing with Billy, Im more comfortable each time out. For this show, he played solo about 40 minutes - I love his solo sets - before we did tunes like "Where's Her Money From" and "How to Trust a Lover", off my record thats out on Billy's label Amulet Records, together. Its an honor, and a good challenge to fly at it with Billy. He demands it be real, and moving, in how he plays and goes about the show.
The following week I played in Duo with the drummer Bob Moses. Bob's approach and style are so unique, it takes a really engaged listening for me to get into it with him. We played some de-rrangements of Ray Charles and songs by the Verve, a couple traditional songs, all in a kind of state of constant float, finding and abandoning conversation where possible.
 
I'm lucky to play with great drummers. Hernan Hecht has been a mentor to me, perhaps without really knowing it or directly engaging as mentor - maybe the best and most selfless kind? - along with illyB and old friends from Minneapolis JT Bates and Greg Schutte. Good to have someone to have your back.
Here's a video Billy and I did quick at Hernan's place.
 

2015 in Review. Yesterday is now.
◆ March ◆
In March, A Love Electric had a Europe run that was our best yet. The finest night was playing in this old church on the east side of Berlin to an audience drinking wine, feet on the chapel pughs. Time's did changed.
In a slap of good luck, we had a night off leaving Berlin and turned out Sex Mob, one of my favorite bands in the world, how !rock! can sound when its good, was playing in Dresden at Jazzclub Tonne. We got to see the show and hang with Bernstein, Tony Scherr, and Kenny Wollesen, who I always get fan nervous talking to.

We'll be back to Europe in March 2016.

 

2015 in Review is now.

◆ February ◆
A Love Electric had a week run of shows with Los Hermanos Arango, from Guanabacoa, Cuba, playing the music of both bands and some arrangements the Arangos did of ALE ‪#‎sonofahero‬ tunes. Singing in Yoruban, Spanish, and English, we got along well, everyone staying in the homes of Hernan, Aaron, and I. Hope to do this again sometime.

We met on a tour in Germany thanks to the generous Wolff family, hung a bit, made plans, and 5 months later they were in Mexico.

Here's a simple crowd video from our show at FES Acatlán - UNAM - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VetodrjiJd0

We released "Music is My Mother Language", a short documentary directed by Billy Martin and I at a film Festival in Chiapas. I got to live out one of my most ambitious dreams in playing trio with Billy and John Medeski.
We had soundchecked and were set up to play in the city plaza for the festival, I had brought some new tunes we ran quickly, a take on Neil Young's "After the Gold Rush", Rage Against the Machines's "Bombtrack" and some others I thought would fly. All sounded good in check, Medeski had a real organ, and the plaza in San Cristobal de las Casas is beautiful. 
A couple minutes before the show, as our film was being shown, a big group of protestors in masks arrived to city square and shut the festival down. There is plenty to protest and for good reason in Chiapas, so we moved on down the street to a friend's jazz club, DaDa Club, packing way too many people inside to play two sets with Medeski, Martin and myself. John had to play a Nord through a not enough watt Fender bass practice amp. People danced anyhow and I took a lot from playing with two of my heroes, watching and feeling how they communicate. The first tune we played was "Gravy Waltz". I took a the first solo and was really safe, played maybe 2 or 3 choruses and then looked at Medeski to hand it off. He shook his head with a "you're not done" look. He was right. I played a bit longer and realized the challenge I wanted was what I was going to get.
The dream was realized and we showed the film the following afternoon in the city plaza.

You can see the film by joining Music Mission at www.patreon.com/toddclouser

◆ January ◆


It was cold and colder on a wind shot darkly cold night in New York City when A Love Electric played NYC Winter Jazzfest to start our year. 
I felt really good about the show we played despite having perhaps the toughest time slot of the festival. 

A few months back, though time is mostly an unmade bed for ashes memories, we were in Colombia with A Love Electric.

I was always fascinated by Colombia growing up. I did not get to see enough of it this go. We had a couple days in Medellin and a few in Bogota that I spent writing, mostly in my hotel room.

The last day we were invited to this house to record something I didn't know about. It ended up being these 3 videos. We look tire and were but its a good look of where were at.

Im playing a little less this month and writing more. Feels right. I think Im learning its creating something, where the blood is, for me. Once its created Im not really excited about reciting it. Fortunately, in this band, its never the same.

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday I gave a workshop that was more of a cultural exchange at the “rural normal” school in Ayotzinapa thanks to a friend Sarai who had reached out to me and the 70 some people who support Music Mission. 

The students at the workshop, about 30, were very nice and generous, and like anywhere, have ideas and hopes both simple and grand they want to express through music. The first question the group’s coordinator asked, also a student, was why I came there, not meant in an accusatory manner, but out of curiosity, at least as I understood it. I wasn’t sure how to really express that, and maybe didn’t know at the time and kind rambled a bit, but now I see it was perhaps not only because I thought they could use music and whatever support I can give, but that I might need them in order to feel, and find, my music. Maybe that is why I have this odd life of where Im from and where I am that seems to make little sense to anyone but me. Im following music over common reason.

 

We all began our time together timidly but by the end were joking, hugging, and making plans for the future. This is the impossible romance of connecting through art.  

 

Time at the school is colored by the impossible sadness of the tragedy and crime of September 2014 when 43 students of the school went missing, some of the parents still wait there for the kids to return. Throughout the school are photographs of the missing students, flowers, declarations, and notices. But I left feeling hope above all else. There is an almost impossible dignity the kids had in the way they treated me and communicated their thoughts and experiences, the way they listened, and how they spoke. We did not talk about tragedy, we talked about what they want to do, that one student is in love with a girl up the road and another likes Nirvana while another likes traditional music and the songs of the school and another is tired of the traditional music of his town and another likes singing romantic songs because he “feels a lot of need for romance as an adolescent”.

 

It was not that different of an experience than a recent clinic we gave at Jefferson College in Missouri with A Love Electric, or the same at Univ of Colorado. Young people who connected with music and found hope in it at some point in their life, and want to explore with and by it. 

 

The students invited me back to play a concert and I look forward to doing that. Not for the spectacle nor charity, but because we need each other. All of us.

 

A few moments that will stick with me :

 

A younger student asked me about my family in the US, if they were worried that I was in Guerrero. I told him yes, probably, like any parents, like any Mother, they would worry. I asked him the same, if his Mom was worried. He said, straight faced asking no sympathy, “I don’t have one, she and my brother were killed, but yes my Dad worries a lot that Im here, but Im learning.”

 

Part of custom at the school is not to recognize by applause. I played a few songs and no one applauded  looked up and saw half of them with cellphones recording. I knew it wasn’t for lack of interest the applause, and from there on kind of enjoyed the silence. It requires a breath and consideration after playing that doesn’t come when you get sound of immediate approval. After about 90 minutes, we finished our time together, mostly joking and talking music, and the students helped me pack up and head back to Chilpancingo. One of the students spoke to me in a quiet voice, saying “here we have a little different ideology, we don’t applaud because of the idolatry, its a Marx or Lenin or I don’t know, but it doesn’t mean we didn’t like it.” I had already understood that, but thought it was sweet and meaningful of him to say that.

 

 

Its 4:32 a.m. in the Tulsa airport. Tulsa. Oklahoma. Seal is playing on the airport speakers louder than I would expect from the Tulsa airport at 4:32 a.m. He sings the tile of the song so many times I go from thinking its not great, to knowing and singing along, to thinking its horribly obvious and overthought if not mathematically calculated marketing, to admiring them for their shamelessness, to again singing. They've won.

I'm here with my friends Hernan and Aaron, also bandmates. We just did about 5 thousand miles in 3 weeks from Seattle through the Pacific Northwest to Colorado, some really out corners of Missouri and ending here in Tulsa. In 12 hours we will be playing songs behind 3 men from the ranches of the Mexican state of Durango in their 80's. They are the keepers of the tradition called the Canto Cardenche. We are creating our own tradition here with this thing that has developed with the band and the community growing up around us. Its not the Canto Cardenche, but its coming along.

Thanks everyone for coming by.

Politic season is on in the USA and I am happy to be away, and have no television. I love you up there, but you are nuts. Crazy rich Uncle.

I have been, gleefully, making a lot of music. Its what I love to do. I plan to take advantage of every opportunity to make music about any and everything I think I have something to share about. 

Thank you for making that possible.

Our band A Love Electric is its own animal now. I don't mean that in the cliched sense. It truly has its own blood and hunts its own unsuspecting, genre-loving, box headed, prey. Me, Hernan and Aaron just get dragged about by it, like the kids you see at American malls whose parents have them on leashes, but this is pretty.

Here's a new live video from a place called Minimo Set in Bogota, Colombia. 

 

 

CHANT is a dreamer's dream project that takes a lot of energy to make go, but I enjoy the challenge. People smile where they wouldn't. Thats not trite, honestly, it can take a lot to make us actually feel joy, or feel at all, to react with the brightest of human impulses with all the distraction from a  decent existence we all battle. I've directed kids from underserved neighborhoods in Mexico Cityto some of the greatest jazz musicians I know in the world now, and its always heavy and rewarding, and real music gets made. There is a spiritual sense to it all, but I am nearly allergic to that word now with its new-agey implications. We use no incense, we make music. Thats not to say incense is bad, but music is better.

Its music for getting people together and making music, as opposed watching and celebrating an image of a human share their character. We do it together. I like that 80's song, or at least it sounds like an 80's song "I Still Believe".

Here's a little highlight video

 

Here’s a clip from an improv session Billy Martin and I did at Studio Hecht in Mexico City last week. Its called “Information Blue”. I wrote the words down quick after a conversation about the weight of being over informed and under informed in the information age and we just played. It is really beautiful to play with Billy on these short runs we have done in Mexico and a bit in the US. We spend a lot of time in vans and planes and all this talking. Billy has always been inspiring to me because he is sincere in his music and with word, a wild but wise creativity out of commitment to good and love, without having to talk about love all the time. 

We recorded about 40 minutes of music in 2 long pieces this afternoon at Hernan's studio. No plans with it or for it, just a chance to play. I always wanted to play rock rock music with Billy, and thats kind of what this became. It felt good to record something without feeling like I had to do something in particular with it. 

Im releasing what we recorded, additional clips, just through the Music Mission site, our philanthropic program to support the creation of new music in underserved areas. Sign up for 5 bucks and you can download some of our session.

Music Mission patrons can get the music at www.patreon.com/toddclouser

 

 

 

If you want to find the songs, go where the trains are.
We are in Colombia for two A Love Electric shows in Bogota and sort of attending this music market called Circulart in Medellin. The market situations can be useful for the band and there's good folks, but its also really terrifying and operates separate of the artistic process, the part where I prefer to spend my time but don't always get to. Its part of the process if you want to do your music, finding a way to represent yourself in these things, or to labels or promoters. I don't love it. We all just wish someone would discover and promote what we do as something good and get us compensated for it, but thats not what happens without getting out and behind it the way it works in the modern music barely-an-industry. It takes much more than the music.

Hernan and I went and hung a bit today at the music market until I start to shake and go silent, leaving the lifting to my trusted brother, and I escaped to run around all the places in Medellin they tell you not to go to. Im much better than I was, but anxiety in these situations of new people and convincing or even making it easy nice light talk is something Ive always dealt with. Its much of the reason I think I chose to communicate with music since I was a kid. I think we all deal with this, but when it hits hard enough that your presence may be counterproductive to what you are trying to achieve, get out. I did.

I walked around sat under the train station and wrote for a couple hours watching the the man with the open fly shine shoes, the older men drinking liquor from plastic cups, crayon color buses, the block deep bank lines, the shouting for a sale. Music everywhere.

I sang under my breath the song I've always been trying to write, the greatest song ever told, Bob Dylan's "It's Alright Ma, Im only Bleeding".

So I got new songs and Im ready to play. Maybe Hernan booked us some things. Maybe not and I'll just keep singing to myself. Thats actually not that bad.

 

 

 

A couple weeks ago I released a record called "CHANT" inspired by prison song and old south field recordings. We recorded in Mexico City and Minneapolis, 30 friends chanting in my apartment, the trash collector out on the streets, at a shaman's home in Peru, and in Hernan Hecht's, Erik W. Koskinen's and Greg Schutte's studios. Everyone was and is welcome.


This is "Hold My Machete". I wrote it while in the Mexican state of Guerrero driving the Pacific coast. You pass through small towns where everyone is carrying a machete in a long leather holster. For miles, the highway is lined with young men barefoot and shirtless chopping the tall grass, big heat, with their machetes. It all feels surreal, but its the real sweat.
‪#‎CHANT‬ is available at www.clouserchant.bandcamp.com

https://soundcloud.com/toddclouser/04-hold-my-machete?in=toddclouser/sets/chant/s-h4c6y

I was invited to be on the radio a bit ago and a host asked me, "so when did you decide to stop playing jazz?" Of course I never decided that and Im not sure what I play, in the many different groups and approaches, is any more or less jazz or rock or spiritual than anyone who is staking a claim to playing a specific style. Im not as concerned about it as I once was. But the entire compartmentalization of sound art, music, into segments to support identity does continue to bother me. 

I think most musicians who are being honest would agree that what you play decides you more than a conscious decision driven by style or genre. 

Music is beautiful because it is everything, it is possibility. 

People talk about markets and how you move within the market and these things, and the truth of it is you just have to be sincere with what you do. Whatever it is you do, and there is an audience for you. Your audience may be smaller than you'd hoped, and it may be in a different part of the world, and it may not afford you homes and cars, but if you are you, and you believe it, it is inspiring, and thats what you should be doing as long as you want to. 

Don't let the teaching own you, let it enable you. Stay inquisitive and rebellious.

We are better off talking about how music feels, how it relates to our lives, than market driven identities. That, after all, is what this is all about, our humanity, thats why we started to celebrating music. Music awoke a part of us we hoped to know better.

That said, and the question that bothered me and all, I've been having a really good time exploring music, playing and writing recently. Our band is adventurous and never complacent live and I'm so happy to be part of what we've built together.

Follow the music.

Here is some music I've been listening to recently.

 

 

 

 

 

We just released this record CHANT in Mexico City. The show was the type of experience I've had with music when we are at our best together.

The stage is trivial, lights, the idea of the spectacle, the solo, the athleticism, all uncovered as often contradictory to the spirit of the  human ritual of creating and celebrating sound together. People get on stage and are just as much part of creating as someone who has studied or composed or gotten paid. All that is lost and we are a community that creates. The people that come sing are often more important than what we might do out of habit as experienced musicians on a stage. They have no licks or tunes or successful habits to rely on. The ONLY thing they can do is emote and express. They don't know if its good or bad and you can see them lose any fear of that once the support of the band hits. They do know when it feels. You see people overcome. My dream has always been to create a concert experience like you see in some Southern Baptist churches. Joy so heavy there is a pain to it. If you feel like shouting, you can, you should.

Thats where I want to live. In the experiment of the human spirit. There is still hope to create something new and sincere. 

Thank you to everyone who came out the CHANT show in Mexico City. There are a few more planned for the summer.

The record and story are available at clouserchant.bandcamp.com

Hello everyone.

I wanted to share some photos and a little bit of what John Medeski and I presented at a festival here in Mexico City called Ars Futura. In duo, we played a suite called "Boy 44" inspired by the life of a young man who was "disappeared" by state police in the state of Guerrero. I cannot process how something like that can happen. Its beyond tragic and into evil and other worlds of thought I know might exist but can't understand how anyone would make them action. 

I wanted to do something and music is the only way I know how. So I wrote this suite and sent a bit of the story and context to Medeski and he was happy, as far as I know, to be part of the music. The idea was to not talk about the subject matter before the concert, so as to not create expectations, just to let the music do the speaking. It does that better than words. But John missed the memo and talked to a newspaper reporter the day prior to the show and the day of the concert a giant article with the headline "Medeski and Clouser present Homage to 43 Students Killed at Ayotzinapa"  came out. Mexico is a media controlled state. Freedom of press is not a reality. There is one newspaper that is seen as left-leannig, La Jornada, where the story was published. Federal police came to the festival to tell organizers "they can't play the song about Ayotzinapa." Of course they were misinformed about what we were doing and the whole act of anger on anyone's part is pathetic (we are paying homage to a boy whose life was tragically taken), but nonetheless they came shake some fear out.

We played what we planned without pause. Nontheteless, they still won. They invoked fear. Certain media outlets won't publish our piece now or the music we played. Organizers will think twice about having us. All over someone trying to play music to honor the life of a kid in rural Mexico studying to be a teacher, tragically kidnapped, and presumably murdered, by police. 

I stopped shutting up because it makes me sick to be quiet.

This is a song called You the Brave written about a year ago, the first for the Boy 44 suite, that is also on the Chant Record. Here it is played live at ArsFutura Festival.

 

 

 

 

Jhosivani Guerrero De La Cruz  walked 4 kilometers every morning to catch the bus to the school where he was studying to be a teacher, his dream, in the Mexican state of Guerrero. On September 26, 2014, Jhosivanni was one of 43 students kidnapped and “disappeared” by state police. His family in the ranching community of Omeapa still search for answers.
The world should be a better place.


The music John Medeski and I present tomorrow at ArsFutura 2015 is inspired by the life of Jhosivanni Guerrero de La Cruz. 
No one should ever know tragedy this wicked.

http://ayotzinapasomostodos.com/jhosivani-guerrero-de-la-curz/

Magic runs through a bit of Europe and Argentina.

Thank you all.

On these tours, sleeping is done in short segments. Three or four hours on a bus, a couple hours after the show, and so on. There’s little time for dreaming, or remembering.

A few days ago in southern Argentina, we had our chance at a first full night of sleep in some time. We were given an A frame wood cabin, at the base of a large in mountain in El Bolson, to sleep in. There was a small glass window next to my bed, on the top floor, that looked out over the small city, and allowed the mountain night air to come through. I wish we could have stayed longer. 

We had played a concert at a culture space in the city, people of all ages, a really warm and adventurous, inquisitive, forward crowd. 

I slept hard and dreamt hard.

I dreamt that I was at a large festival type of concert. There was a big black stage constructed in a green field, and a somewhat sparse crowd. I was invited to play by the band. I was somewhere behind where the soundman sets up at these types of shows, in the middle of the crowd, center. I realized I had been invited to play and started walking towards the stage. Somehow my guitar and effects were set up. They were far stage right, with the amplifier on wheels. My gear was set a bit back from the band, but there was also a microphone set up nearer the front of the stage.

I approached the stage and its not really clear what happened. I realized the band to be Wilco, an American rock band I like very much, but haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about recently. I got on stage, kind of just appeared there, as I don’t remember climbing any steps or anything, and I began to play. I was really bad, and knew it, struggling, and then trying to overcompensate. It was a horrid feeling. I realized I was very drunk. (I have been sober for nearly 5 years). I was drunk and trying to hide it but the band knew it, and the crowd knew it. I tried again too hard, walking to the microphone and singing but nothing came out. My mouth missed the microphone. I was embarrassed. The band started physically moving away from me in the dream to where I was isolated stage right but somehow had more space than all of them. The song ended, Im not sure what song it was, don’t remember the music in the dream, maybe I think there was no music. I saw the band leave the stage. I was still there, not really falling over, but not really standing up. They didn’t scoff or treat me poorly or anything, but I was deeply hurt and embarrassed. I started to walk off the stage but then thought perhaps I could try to make it right, walking back to the microphone and trying to play something more. I don’t know what it was, but it did not work. The band had left at this point. The crowd had left. I looked down and saw grey the metal bars of a security fence. I was drunk and ashamed and on a big stage and I could not hide it. There was nothing to do. 

That is the last thing I remember before I woke up, with the feeling something terrible had happened. Shame in awaking. It took me a few minutes to put things together, that this was a dream, it had not happened, that I was not hungover. 

Memory hangs around just enough to remind you who you could have been. Thank you to the many people who believed I could better, encouraged me to do so, and have supported me in recovery. I hope I can help others the way you have helped me. I don’t live with that shame anymore, the daily wounds from the self. Thank you for that. And thank to the almighty art of sound, our dear music.

Seated between men on smartphones in the Amsterdam airport, Schiphol. It was a really good tour through Spain, Germany and on to Prague. They were a few shows we got to somewhere really new with the music. That feeling of connection in discovery is magic. People came out, got things happening to come back. 

I spent a lot of time writing music on this trip. There's a lot to watch and consider on these runs and if I am connected and can focus, I can make use of it.

Most of the writing time was spent on a song suite for the ArsFutura festival in Mexico City. The suite is for rhodes, effects, guitar and voice, and we present it as a duo with John Medeski.

I'm enjoying more and more the research part of writing when I have a specific concept in mind. So, some music I've been checking out.

From Duke Ellington's "New Orleans Suite"

Its just beuatiful. I am naive in many ways, including knowing much about Mahalia Jackson. But if she is anything like this piece of music suggests, we are old, new, and future lovers. Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite When music talks about what is important, the human experience at its most essential, of triumph, of possibility, and of disdain for the liar. Thats why I loved music. Music is our tool to realize our possibility, for the better or for the worse. Use it well, like Max here.

Thanks for coming by here. It means a lot that you support the chances we take.

 

 

Hey dear friends.

Writing from the southern coast of Spain. We have a few days off from shows on this Europe Tour and are spending them in an apartment just south of Malaga. Its been lots of concerts and travel for as long as I can remember, so nice to be in one spot for some days to work on music and get some perspective together.

Last week we had a run with 6 musicians from Cuba, Los Hermanos Arango, playing tunes from both our groups, and some new arrangements of tunes off Son of a Hero. Their music is much more Afro than Afro-Cuban. Songs are sung in Yoruban and they don’t have a traditional drum set in the group. Deep in the Earth music.  They all stayed in our apartments in the south of Mexico City and everyone got along, which can make for good music. Its only about communicating, either we listen or its not worth anyone’s while except the ego’s.

 

The leader of Los Hermanos Arango is Feliciano Arango, a bassist and arranger, and character. He commands the stage and drives the music and does it all with love. The rest of the family admires him greatly. Its beautiful to watch and better to feel when you’re in it with them on stage.

 

Eugenio Arango plays percussion. His voice cuts through whatever we’ve learned and lost and sits with the spirit. I loved standing next to him and playing.

 

Christina Arango is a singer and percussionist and a wonderful person. 

 

The music they play is not the Afro-Cuban music we’ve heard in jazz circles. Its much closer to Fela Kuti than to Afro-Cuban jazz or salsa. Bata drums, not fusion. 

 

It was a gift to spend time with Los Hermanos Arango and we’re looking forward to doing it again. Much of my time on stage with them was spent listening, much more than playing. It wasn’t about me, or them, or A Love Electric, it was about what we were creating together. We created something new, truly new I believe, only because we wanted to explore and enjoy the challenge of it, and came out of it all as a wild family.

 

Eugenio and Feliciano brought new arrangements of “Hush”, “By Hand and Body”, “Elijah”, and “Hollywood Nation”, all off of our Son of A Hero record. Their arrangements were detailed and jumped between our kind of psych rock music into chants and montunos and other more traditional to Yoruban music passages that I don’t know. Brave arrangements.

 

We filmed a bit and had a quick few hours in a studio to get a tune together that Im hoping will help us get things together to record a full record. My friend Saulo Corona is going to put it together into a nice looking video, but for now, here’s my rude cut below of a few simply filmed shows that maybe help give an idea of what we are up to.

 

Thanks much for coming by here.

Much Love

 

Pick up a copy of Son of a Hero if you haven’t yet

toddclouser.bandcamp.com

 

Hello everyone from Jazzatlan, a little club in the little Mexican town of Cholula, Puebla. There are over 360 churches in Puebla. True story.

We're here as a 9 piece incarnation of A Love Electric this time, joined by 6 musicians from deep roots Cuba. Los Hermanos Arango (www.loshermanosarago.com) are in Mexico for a week long run, playing new arrangements of tunes of our ALE "son of a hero" record and whatever we come up with.

We met on a tour last year in Germany, both bands staying in the same house. I was able to get a tour together that supported the 6 coming to Mexico and its been magic. We all hang out, make music, learn. Its mostly what Ive always wanted to do, get as far away from commercial for sake of commerce music and into the spirit of music when its left to be wild and inquisitive. 

Here's a quick photo from the run thus far. Come back around for video soon.

We're off to Europe next week for a six week run that ends in Buenos Aires. Then back in Mexico for a busy April highlighted by a duo show with John Medeski of a new piece of music and a run with Cyro Baptista to release the CHANT record. Gonna get the people up and in it! Everyone from our neighborhood trash collector to my dear brother recorded on CHANT. Thats a story for next time.

If you are northwards, please emerge from Winter well!

Much Love

Just leaving the beautiful Mexican state of Chiapas. We came down here for the Film Festival to debut our short documentary, "Music is My Mother Language", about a trip I took with Billy Martin last February to explore some of the music happening in southern Mexico.

We showed the film to the people it was about, free in the city center plaza projected on a big screen. 

 

We played a concert with John Medeski and Billy Martin the night prior in the DaDa Jazz Club here. The show was first scheduled to take place in the city plaza as well but the festival was shut down by protests. There has been a dispute here over the city market, marred by corrupt politics, money grabs, and at times violence, and a group of people in the city took to the plaza at night to protest and shut down the Film Festival in hope their voices are heard.

 

I hope their voices are heard as well. Thats what our film is about, or at least what we set out to do. We were here to connect with people and share their stories, simple, but inspires me greatly. Moving the concert and the film screening was a small inconvenience. These people have real issues much more important than our concert. 

 

Mexico is in crisis, acknowledged or not, and people need to be listened to, and actions need to be taken. The politik here is as bad as it gets.

 

It you read Spanish, you can read about the screening here : http://www.milenio.com/cultura/documental_musica_lengua_materna-fic_san_cristobal-todd_clouser_0_450555249.html

 

 

The concert with Billy and John was really full, with people outside on the streets listening and the club far past capacity. I started off a bit nervous, sitting between Medeski and Martin, but after a few tunes was able to get somewhere, and be connected.

 

We played some new arrangements I worked out quickly and a couple of my tunes, a Mago tune, and some standard-ish sort of things.

 

Setlist

Mojet (Mago) > Improv

Gravy Waltz

Bombtrack (Rage Against the Machine) > Improv

Unbreak the Morning (Clouser)

Heaven on Earth

Nadie Me Debe (Clouser)

After the Goldrush (Neil Young)

 

Im sitting on a plane looking down at a piece of Kentucky. The entire world is remarkable, the oft scoffed at to the adored. 

I spent a few weeks in New York making the most of our show at Winter Jazzfest working on things for A Love Electric, trying to get us out to new parts of the world, and making some new music. 

I stayed in Billy Martin's basement again and spent time with some real artist heroes of mine, mostly thanks to my friendship with Billy. People are remarkable, these cats who commit to what they do despite its waxing and waning market value. The names we know and the names we don't, people committed to integrity in their art, or their word, or their business.

I met Arto Lindsay a few days ago, he came into the studio I was working at to visit a friend, we talked, and he decided he'd play some guitar on a track I was working on. Arto plays the guitar the way he does, using it as a creator of sound and universe. I love that. He scrapes and bangs and sometimes plays a single note. We talked for a while, about his home in Brazil, about trying to get paid for gigs, about a free session he was called to do, and about Bob Dylan's phrasing. 

In Arto, I finally spoke with someone who agrees with me that modern-day Bob Dylan performances, and his vocals, are a magic art. When you hear Bob Dylan sing live now its Coltrane phrasing to me. He spits out scatttered syllable phrases in urgent bursts, or hangs words around in hidden corners of the beat, or doesn't sing them at all. I love it, its the intellect of the spirit talking. Arto was into talking about that.

My friends and heroes, my mother and father, all of us, have this intellect of the spirit when we honor it. Bob Moses has it. I spent a day improvising with him in his Boston home a few days ago. He's very direct and I appreciate it a ton. He'd say, "alright, no long notes, no bringing it down, I want to go up and keep going, happy."  He wasn't talking in academic music terminology, he was talking with his spirit/soul/heart, about how he felt, about how he wanted to feel, and how we could feel that together. I forget to to do that often.

It doesn't have to be playing whatever you feel it is impossible for anyone to relate to. Its that we have to take care to emote what we really might feel at our most vulnerable, and realest, state. To get there, to the place where you only say the truth, is the challenge.

If I am are saying the truth to me, people feel it. I believe that. The journey is finding that truth, and a way to believe it.

Still working at it.

 

 

 

 

 

We are back in the US this week to play NYC Winter Jazzfest and Im taking a few days to work on Music Mission Projects. 

Its a really magic thing that music is able to do in empowering people, especially young people - it happened for me - and thats the goal of Music Mission, to support and facilitate that magic.

Here is our Episode One, working with a school in the mountains of the Mexican state of Oaxaca, check it out and if you can join, come by www.patreon.com/toddclouser

  

 

 

It has always bothered me when teacher,s or professors, or critics, say "you're not going to play anything that hasn't been played... there's only 12 notes." I read an interview where Winton Marsalis was quoted as saying this. Doesn't mean he did, that much Ive learned in doing interviews ove the past couple years, but sorry Im for people who believe this, Winton or not.

New is ALL there is to play if you allow yourself to do it. There's really no reason to repeat whats been done, trying or not. This means you have to try not to, until you develop something that is only your own. For me, the only tradition jazz has is rebelling against whatever was accepted as tradition. Its a spirit and a social movement, and not just jazz, music. Music is a chance to empower, to express, and to discover. Perhaps that sounds simplistic, optimistic, mystic. Thats music. Honor it, its ahead of us.

So, you are going to play whats never been played in ways that have never been played. And thats what music wants you to play. It moves. 

A couple months ago I took a cheap flight from Mexico City to Torreon in the Mexican state of Coahuila in hopes of connecting with 4 men I'd heard sing on a field recording Aaron Cruz turned me on to. The men sang the "Canto Cardenche", a 19th century traditional song, once sung by Mexican field workers in the Hacienda days. The work back then was slave labor, and the people of the ranches would create songs to pass the time, tell stories of their experiences, give advice to their kids, or call out for love.

The Canto Cardenche is near extinction, though has recently been revived by some young artists in Mexico City. The only performing group of the song in its traditional form are the Cardencheros de Sapioriz, the three men I went looking for in Mexico's north. Thanks to the internet, I connected with some people in the local government that help the men out in sharing their tradition, took a bus into the country, and got to meet the Cardencheros in their humble ranch town of Sapioriz, Durango.

I heard them sing in person and its all love. Its the feeling I always imagined I might have if I saw Big Mama Thornton singing on her porch, or visited the Mississippi Delta before its legendary artists had been discovered and recorded. Music for music, no pretension. Communicating and getting to feel together. Its simple and forgotten, that way of sharing.

I spoke with the men for a bit before and after their concert in Sapioriz - on the porch of on elf the men's nephews - and asked how we could help out by way of this Music Mission program we started a few months back (www.patreon.com/toddclouser). Fidel, the most outspoken of the group, though still quite reserved, said concerts and recordings, ways to share their tradition and song so it isn't lost.

We put together a few concerts fairly paid in Mexico City and got the men's plane tickets and hotel, meals covered, and a day to record in a real studio. 

To see all that happened, check out www.patreon.com/toddclouser where I'll put up a short documentary of our work together and the recording.

But here's a little outtake from the concert we put together at Aaron's house. The power went out in the middle of the show.

These sing beautiful music because they are beautiful people. The three men are wise, sharp in wit, and calm. It was very much an honor to get to be around them and I hope we were able to do some good in sharing their story as they had asked.

 

And for an idea

 

 

CARDENCHE SONG from Todd Clouser on Vimeo.

This is the best reporting Ive seen on what is happening in Mexico. 

 

 

Just back to Mexico City from the north Baja for a short run with A Love Electric. The last show, in Ensenada, we were joined by the La Covacha Big Band, quite a radically invigorating experience. We did the This Means Love arrangement I wrote for the CECAM Orchestra and debuted an arrangement I did for "2100", the tune off Son of a Hero. 

Its been really rewarding working with the towns we are visiting, playing together, workshops, anything that connects people. 

In 2015, I have a record coming out called CHANT. We've been running around Mexico City filming and singing and recording over percussion tracks from Billy Martin and JT Bates. 

Today was the day of the “paro nacional” (national day of pause - marches, protests) in Mexico to protest the absurdly corrupt government and their habit of murdering young people, the most recent case being the 43 students in the rural community of Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.

I was on television this morning for Ciudad Juarez Jazz Fest. The host of the program was a well dressed - all in black, the dress code of the paro nacional - and wise looking man. The station was the usual censored and insincere Mexican television. They were not addressing what was happening in the country. Hernan said it best, there are two completely different countries in Mexico right now, the one on the television and the one the people are actually living.

 So the host man was very sweet droning the breaks and interested in music and how Id ended up in Mexico City. Someone else mentioned politics. It was clear you don’t talk politics or opinion on this station. The show cut to a mundane conversation about obtaining ID’s and so on. During the break, off air, the host looked at me, and said “these politicians are not bad, they are fucking rats.”

  We then went on air and talked about the JazzFest. I didn’t feel right about that. We were avoiding what is much more important, but I also connected deeply with the man in further conversation off air. So is it his fault we;re not talking about it on the television? Is he afraid? Am i Afraid? Would he lose his job? Would someone kill him? Does that mean they have won, the “rats”?

     I think we are all too afraid. I often question consequences of saying things I know to be true and could be helpful. Is that wrong? I think it is. I am worried someone might some Im absolutely crazy, or never listen to my music, or cast me as irrelevant. 

  So then I think, wait, this system we have set up is the part that is absolutely insane. These politicians, the repulsively dishonest and insincere President of Mexico, these people are the crazy ones. But they have the TV, and they have weaponized it. They have weaponized our doubting ( a beautiful and uniquely human trait) conscience. Our hope is in our consideration, but its been turned against us by folks that have no consideration but for themselves.

    So where does that leave me and my piece?  I believe in people. I believe in the television host that talked to me off air and called the political class in MX “rats”. The world of the inhuman, the stories and marketeering and censorship that rails against censorship, the false democracy - that world its not us. So what do we do about it? I have been to the marches. I have worn black. I have stopped consuming aside from basic necessities and these "rats" are worse than before. And its not just "politicians". Its us. We are afraid and a bit desperate in a world of mass illusion. Now what? Anger? Conversation? 

I am on my way home to Mexico City after 3 days mixing in Seattle.

On the way to the airport there was a news story on NPR addressing the protests in Mexico, which I wrote here about in the last post if you don’t yet have the basic information. The NPR piece was the first major outlet news piece I have heard that accurately reflected the information that is available, reaching out to people in Mexico City, not solely journalists of the usual agencies.

I felt proud listening, not only of Mexicans and Mexican people - who have generously adopted me in many senses - but as a person, regardless of nationality - that believes in of hope and action. I think we are all tired of liars. We are all tired of the political class. We are all tired of being sold at and hustled. We are tired of insincerity. 

It is tragic what it takes to get us to act, but here we are. The people of Mexico, many my friends, are out telling the world that they won’t be lied to.  

Only fear keeps some silent, for everyone knows where the truth is not.

Some things that were addressed in the NPR discussion that are important regarding what is happening in Mexico :

 

1 - The disappearance of 43 students (kidnapped by police as directed by a corrupt governor) in Guerrero has still not been solved. No remains have been identified. The MX attorney general suggested scenarios, but has no proof, and his burning scenario is scientifically questionable, if not impossible.

 

2 - The Federal government has been complicit all along in the disappearance of the students, a non-existent and distracting investigation, and a fake arrest of the Mayor of Iguala.

 

3 - It is just as likely that the Government burned down their own door in the Zocalo in MX City as provocation and distraction as it is protestors did so. There are pictures everyone on the internet suggesting such and showing police protecting the man who lit the door on fire. This is an old PRI tactic of hiring someone to instigate violence in a protest in order to create a new story and demonize protesters.

 

4 - The protests in Mexico City have not been violent. 

 

5 - The President of Mexico continues to be defensive and dismissive in an irresponsible, if not criminal, manner. He and his Attorney General have refused to investigate federal authorities in Guerrero.

 

6 - The international community - the people - have demonstrated worldwide in solidarity with the Mexican people, but governments have largely turned a blind eye. No one is suggesting military intervention, but statements demanding accountability are necessary. It is not a matter of “an investigation playing out” as some governments have suggested. There is no real investigation.

 

7 - These protests are not only for 43 missing students, but for the more that 23,000 missing in the past two years, and against a government, and President, that have worked against the people and for themselves.

 

I share this because it is important to me and many people I love in Mexico City, and I think maybe for all of us. We need to have leaders we can trust again. Everywhere, not just in governments. 

That means we have to be sincere ourselves. Sometimes that is the most frightening part. That fear creates silence. That silence perpetuates corruption. I would be lying if I said I didn't think twice about posting this for a number of reasons. I am often hired to perform in festivals that are funded by the government. I personally live comfortably financially. But this is what I think, and I think it could maybe help, and not sharing would be support of the silence and apathy that has decayed our nature of possibility and progress.

 

 

 

 I am not from Mexico but this is my home. For me, this is the greatest place to live in the world, a vibrant, beautiful country and people. I am grateful to be here in Mexico City, where I am able to do what I love, play music and connect with people. 
But something terrible has happened here, a product of the dark, cynical, and shameful politic in this country and many others. 43 students were kidnapped by police on their way to a social demonstration in the town of Iguala, in the state of Guerrero and have disappeared. It took over a month for the president of the country to acknowledge what has happened, and that this was done under the direction of government authorities in the region, by all accounts the President's friends - the Mayor of Iguala and his wife, also a politician. As a search was agreed to, weeks later, other bodies have been found, mass graves. 
What has happened is not a reflection of the Mexican people, this is the Mexican politic.
This is happening under the same president - one with a legacy of corruption prior to being elected - that Time Magazine put on the cover as "Saving Mexico" and many major medias embraced as a visionary after his taking of the presidency, despite knowing his election, and his past in politics in the state of Mexico, was wildly corrupt. 
This is not politics, and it doesn't matter what country you are from or support, this is being human. We all have to care, because if we don't, the future is dim, for everyone. We cannot allow the cynicism of these people to become our own. 
Please let your friends, elected officials, university, band, and neighbors know you are with the Mexican people, and the 43 young people who have gone missing at the hands of a corrupt government. Today there is a large protest in Mexico City, share the photos if you can. Demand accountability and that leaders in the US begin asking questions of their Mexican counterparts. They are too silent. This is not "drug violence", it is government violence.
We can't be afraid to be decent.

 

 

I could not sleep last night. I put on headphones and listened to Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 8 instead. I love newer-era Bob Dylan. I don't know how to describe it, but it makes me feel some sort of wonder and grit that feels like truth. I don't know what that is, but sometimes I feel like it might exist.

Thank you Bob Dylan for working so hard and making all these beautiful songs.

I share the YouTube link here, but if you like it, buy it. 

 

I never took house concerts before, being under the impression they were for people who couldn't get booked in the club. That was wrong.
I played the first house show I've ever done last night in Ellsworth, Maine. I didnt know it going in, just had an email saying the venue was "430 Bayside" from the booking agent. We pulled up in the afternoon and 430 Bayside was a medium sized house on a country road a few blocks from the ocean. Fall color, Church signs, unkept barns, space, wet sky. 
The owner of the home gave us each bedrooms and internet and space to do whatever we were feeling. I had no idea if anyone would come to the show, Im in smaller town Maine, have no idea what happens here, what could happen here. I generally tend towards the negative expectations when on tour in the US from experience in clubs in unknown, or known for that matter, towns. Sometimes its cool, but most times if lots of people go, no one listens, sometimes no one goes, and rarely do a bunch of people just show up and appreciate wild music. But I like to play music every night, so I keep taking the chances.
Time for the show came around and the house got full. Maybe 40 people, all set down, waiting for a concert, all paid 15 dollars. The youngest group of people were drinking Natural Ice Beer, maybe mid 20's, and the eldest were on a couch with their eyes closed smiling, maybe in their mid 70's. This does not happen often in the US in my experience if you are just showing up in town, unknown to anyone, and playing whatever music you want to. All these people getting together and committing to music, new music, maybe strange music, it feels like a really old idea that we forgot about when we made the concert an entertainment spectacle - or a dinner (looking at you jazz club x) - over an arts event. 
We played an hour or so set and it felt really good, mostly singing songs off the Man With No Country record. People were quiet during the soft songs, shouted during the loud parts, and I got to tell some stories about the songs and Mexico City and how I borrowed, for good, the Man With No Country song from my Dad. Afterwards I sold records and talked with people. A guy in the audience asked if I would play guitar with him. Sure, why not. He went on to play Carter Family and John Prine songs, and told me his name was Chris. His hands were really dirty, looked like he worked outside. He was a cool singer and really passionate about these old folk songs. I wont forget him, had something very honest and USA about him, the wise, charming, grit parts. It was a joy to connect with him like that.I wanted to play with him again sometime, as I love those songs. I asked "how do I find you?". His friend seated next to us answered, "you don't. He finds you."

I tour a lot and we play everywhere because I still want and need to play music every night I can with new people, in the crowd and on the stage. I like the challenge, but at times I have thought that "these days", with the distractions and news madness and technology and YouTube and streaming whatever Michael Jackson hologram concert from Las Vegas into your bedroom, most people dont care about music, something new, experiencing it, sharing it, in person, any longer. 
Im wrong. We are just giving them the wrong kinds of options of experiences as musicians and venue owners. People - us, we - want something real and personal, not 4 TVs with sports games and 4 bartenders and a table with silverware next to a man who involuntarily groans on the minute. We still want the real parts of music, that spirit of community that comes in the concert experience, its just not in the places everyone looks most often. Viva Coastal Maine.

 

I also got to record a record with the great Bob Moses in Boston. More later on that!

 

It was quite an epic run for us through a little piece of Europe and north Africa to NYC, upper midwest and back in MX this week.

Still trying to catch up on where I am and get some perspective on it all. 

Below are some photos from the tour, the night of the John Lurie Celebration at Town Hall in NYC, and the filming we did in Morocco. 

We got a little US press too. Jazz Times! http://jazztimes.com/articles/142680-review-todd-clouser-a-love-electric-in-milwaukee  

Thanks for coming by. Much Love.

My song story for "Tlalpan Girl" off the new A Love Electric record, "Son of A Hero"

Tlalpan is a street in Mexico City a few blocks from where I live. The orange colored metro train, though the blue line, runs up and down to the downtown of a city with a million cities inside of its millions of downtowns. Here on Tlalpan, there are 24 hour street food stands, 24 hour taxis, and 24 hour transvestites. Some of them I've met in passing. They call me gringo or make air guitar gestures as I go by, home from work, but are generally very friendly. 
I often feel like Mexico City has this quality in all its people of an ability to detach just enough from self and our participation in society to laugh wildly in loving fun at the ridiculousness of what our norms have become. Its important. Things have a sense of humor about themselves.
I wrote this song "Tlalpan Girl" after playing on the other side of Tlalpan - you climb a wild circle cement staircase where there is a small neon red light altar up to the Municipio Libre bridge to cross. I had played in duo with Daniel Jodocy, a drummer from Belguim by way of New York City, at an honest hearted music joint, Pizza Jazz, its called. I had carried my amplifier from home and it was digging deep into my thigh as I slugged it back home. 
Around 1 a.m. maybe, this happens often if I go up to the store late, I feel a peace and liberty happening on this street. This is not reality, its just how I feel. Its the time of night is where music starts to fall from everyone's face. What do you talk about at this hour when people talk less? Where aren't they that they should be? Walking home, my amplifier was getting heavier and my leg more painful as bone knocked metal step by step. 
I stopped for a minute to sit, my guitar on my back and a suitcase of pedals and charts - most of which we didn't play- the amplifier my chair. On most corners there are prostitutes at these hours, most any time of day really, especially after the 15th or 30th of each month, payday. The city doesn't seem to mind. I don't either but often wonder if I should, and if I would if I knew their stories, these people here waiting with cheap purses. There are a lot of songs everywhere.
Sitting, a couple of really tall women - I never am sure if Im to say woman or man, Im not concerned about it - with large breasts but very masculine stature, winked at me in a joking manner. It felt like we could have been friends, but we weren't in each others businesses. I was in front of one of the many hour rent hotels on the avenue, lights above flickering, cars in and out slowly, occasionally a taxi. I sat and listened to them talk and smoke cigarettes, telling each other stories about someone that kept calling them and sending text messages asking where they had been.
I heard the melody "Tlal - pan Girl, Tlalpan girl" sitting there in silence. Three notes that said more than what I was feeling, explained most everything. I didn't know the rest of the song yet. After a few minutes I felt I was ready to lug the rest of the way home. I stood up, passed the 7-11 and the daytime pirate movie stand, and walked the rest of the way. Getting home, I wrote some words that became most of the song in time. Like most best songs, it came easy. 
In the morning I walked around the corner from my apartment to a small restaurant that I don't think has a name, but has really good 40 peso breakfast. The waiter is a friend, a really sweet and smart autistic man that loves to talk guitars and ask me where I have been. Im often the only person in the restaurant, theres just 4 or 5 tables, but this morning I was not alone. At the table next to me was a man dressed as a man, who had been dressed as a woman the night before. He was very gentle, hair still pulled back, some leftover makeup where he missed in what I imagined ay have been a quick hotel exit. He looked tired. He looked resigned. But he did not look defeated.

When I sing the melody, the little title fragment, Tlal-pan Girl, Tlalpan girl, I go right back to where I was on the street, in the wild peace of 1 a.m. and see the face of the man ordering his breakfast. Music does magic.

Just home from 7 shows in 6 days A Love Electric + Medeski. It was better than I could have hoped really. We were able to communicate something impossible to talk about.

Thank you everyone who came out to the shows. More coming.

 

Im just back from Tlahuitoltepec, Oaxaca. There is a school up there in the mountains that is really special, called CECAM. We were able to teach, collaborate on some new music, and donate a bunch of books and instruments to what they do.

Check out what we do at patreon.com/toddclouser. I put together a documentary film of what we were able to do together. I enjoyed every part of the process, from the buses to the arranging, getting to know really warm and talented people. Its quite a heavy experience really and Im not prepared yet to put it to words - the notes tell a more accurate story.

Here's some photos from time working at CECAM and a little LQ/LD (its about the content!) video to say thank you. We worked on improvisation and ideas for unique voice in composition and performance, as they are already great readers with a really large repertoire of both their traditional and classical musics. I showed them Billy Martin's Stridulations exercises/pieces and those took off.

A complete experience married to the altruism I find in music. Is it anywhere else?

And a quick video saying thank you to all the people who made this possible by joining our Music Mission program at www.patreon.com/toddclouser.

  

Check out more at our Music Mission page. www.patreon.com/toddclouser

 

Out to A Love Electric tour next week. 

 

 

Thanks for coming by. I spent a few weeks in Oaxaca recently working on music. Billy, illyB, Martin came by and we had a chance to play some music up on the roof of the house we were staying in. Hope you enjoy.

 

And here's a take on "Where's Her Money From", different day.

A Love Electric is this band we've been touring with the past 3 years, often with my name attached to it, but its grown to be a real band, an honest sum of its parts, not just mine anymore. There are three of us, from three different countries (MX/US/ARG) , all living within a block of each other in Mexico City, a city of 26 million people. We've played over 300 shows the past two years, slept on floors in Argentina, Europe, all over Mexico, and in the US. We all have careers playing in other bands as well, but this became something special as we spent more time together, we've left a lot of personal opportunity behind to commit to this, just playing music and moving around the world as much as we could. We've evolved a lot over time, from playing instrumental music to songs where I just yelled to what might be more proper songs now, which is really my voice and what I do when I'm alone just making music.
  In March 2013 John Medeski came down, as a friend, to the Baja in Mexico and we played one gig together with A Love Electric. Of course a dream for me, and all of us, and when I was driving John and his family back to the airport, he expressed gratitude for the trip - we spent a few days in a cabin on the beach in Cabo Pulmo -  the music and hanging, and said "I'll play on your next recording, you know, not charging, just whenever you want, tell me… unless you want someone else."  That was March 2013 and I started writing every morning with the Son of a Hero record in mind the next morning, every morning, on tours, wherever I could.
    By September I had about 30 songs I liked enough and had recorded a few rounds of demos in my apartment living room in MX City, just into my phone or whatever. I started talking with Hernan Hecht, our drummer, about producing the record. It was important to me the new record stay in our hands, all the understanding and love that have grown out of years of touring and living together, sharing it all, its felt really hard for someone else to feel where we are coming from. So I wanted to keep the whole process with us, and Hernan is a brilliant producer, arranger. He has a Latin Grammy and these things, but he would be absolutely the last to tell you about that.
  We started tracking songs in Hernan's studio, just me playing solo, but ended up abandoning all those recordings. We needed to be playing together the three of us in the studio to get the energy right on these tunes, I felt, Hernan didn't feel that way so much, but it ended right. So we recorded as a trio 3 days in Minnesota, the three of us, something like 16 or 17 songs, with Hernan and Aaron arranging a lot in the studio, flipping the songs around, and doing what each one of them does, make brilliant music that only they can. There's no one like either of them, and with the 3 of us, there's nothing like what happens. I've played other places with other people, it do nest happen with the vigor and personality it does with us.
   
 From there, we went out to Appleahead studio in Woodstock where Medeski keeps a lot of his gear. Its a magic studio, big A Frame, three cats that live in Mx City up in the cold, and John and I tracked out parts. We worked out the rest of the record in Mexico City at Hernan's studio, where the scrapped sessions started, and in this time I also became a close friend of Billy Martin, who was working with John Lurie. John Lurie is a hero of mine, I've written about that. I started speaking with John infrequently, and I got hipped to Patrick Dillet, who mixes a lot of David Byrne's stuff, and did Lounge Lizards records with John. I wanted to work with Patrick, so we set it up, long in advance, to come out to NYC and mix with him. The three of us went out and played 5 shows in a week in New York and mixed days with Patrick. There is this sense of community and humanity, maybe family, in making this record, that came about naturally. From John, and then Pat becoming a friend and just being real with us, and understanding what we do. All the right people, not a lot of people, but the right ones, seemed to come into our lives at the right time. 
Son of A Hero, the name, is something I wanted to say since a kid. I feel like we all operate, now in this giant monolith society, in the shadow of some great hero of the success of someone or something that came before us. I feel this in music, in the arts as much as in my family. Its resigning to that, "fine, you cats were heroes, thats wonderful, truly, Im fine with just being the Son of a Hero, I don't have to fight that or try to outgrow the shadow, I can celebrate my space in it".      So its overcoming by not needing to.
All I've ever wanted to do is create music, create new, and create something real with people out of that, music that is really about personality and character, and I think this record does that. 
Its taken a lot to get there. Moving to a new country, moving to a city Id never thought Id live in, sleeping on floors, buses, Aunt's couches, and writing more songs to throw away than I thought I'd ever write in the first place, but its all right, its just been following the music. I've followed the music and its led us to this record. 
Just the Son of a Hero is fine, maybe more empowering than trying to overcome some idea of greatness by ego that doesn't truly give us what may be most meaningful.

Here is the first single, "Be The Evolution" . The video was filmed by Mario Rodriguez on a roof in Oaxaca with some paint from the

supermarket that came off easier than I anticipated swimming in the Pacific Ocean.

 

My most common impulse in sharing thoughts on music and artistry here is to open my chest and let the doubts fall out. Insecurity, uncertainty, trials in being heard and wondering if you are any good. I'm thinking more recently, and perhaps as much as an exercise as for a convincing piece on my experience, that whatever doubt I experience is matched by an often out of conscience conviction. Why am I still here doing this? I've been ripped off and had records bought and not bought and people come and not come and torn up over songs I have and havent written. I would do that all again. I will do that all again. Its not going to go to plan. When you have experienced the impossible, all you can ever do is go there again.

Whatever Im doing here with music and time on Earth is driven by some wild and to experience the unattainable, to convince myself that we can be lifted by the miracle. 

I went to the Camp a favorite band of mine, Medeski, Martin and Wood, ran for some years. I look back and know I wanted to learn but without acknowledging it at the time, as it seemed quite ridiculous, I wanted to play WITH those cats. I felt what they were doing and wanted to participate, though wasn't ready to execute it yet. I knew it might happen sometime. Not because I was great, but because I believed in music that much. That it could pull me from a shy and naive late teen to whatever I do now.  On with time and Billy Martin and I got to do the below on a roof a few days ago. I'm not overcome by pride, I'm overcome by a sense that music is more powerful than whatever we think we cant, shouldn't, or won't do. You just have to let it act its way, and follow it. And it's not to late.

So I look at what is happening, and we are playing with heroes, and more people come to the concerts, people take pictures, but still sometimes no one goes, and I care less and less. Because the music is more and more. I can understand why it lands its lovers under bridges. Im fully convinced of what it can do. And if there is something to be proud of, its the ability to practice, create, and share with more conviction than before. I can mostly feel honest on stage, or alone in the corner now. Thank you for allowing that to happen.

 

 

 

 

 

I wanted to share the charts for the work Im doing with the CECAM philharmonic band. Its been a bright experience, they are incredbiel musicians, most of indigenous Mixe towns in Oaxaca, ages 14 to early 30's.

The arranging took a few weeks of work, sitting with a melodica in my apartment, and working with the band at their rehearsal space in Oaxaca. Next is to write new music for the orchestra, we've talked about doing a record together at some point.

 

This_Means_Love_CECAM.pdf

Unbreak_teh_Morning_CECAM.pdf

Thank you to Band Director Vladimir Medina for embracing this music. It's a beautiful thing working with people that connect to the music before anything else is considered.

 

 

We just released this short EP with Renee Mooi. 

 

Mostly we look at the day with eye forward. Tragedy has not yet taken place, nor triumph.

Birds still live here. Still life. Nothing moves. Pause for the sun to set and gather why we have failed or loved. Distracted by vanity. And the what of me, the mind slowly trails to what may happen next without what finishing what could happen now. More birds. Wild wires of Rumania. The world is too small to make enemies.

 

I was reading an article on Japanese society and the younger generation there, largely born in the late 80's and early 90's. The take was that they have learned to outgrowth growth, to regrowth. In that, there is a sadness in resignation, but a heroism in humility. They are not ashamed to live with family and help provide in whatever manner they came, they often work part-time and are not fascinated with material goods. This is what the article says. I thought of myself, naturally. Isn't this what we do in want? Compare ourselves tirelessly, tiringly, to where we can never be the great that we have created and idealized, that doesn't exist and is unattainable in reality. Exactly. Maybe this is what the new generation knows. What we need most is to learn how to live together, not be better than one another. That can be happiness. 

its not just clever Zen-talk.

You get out into the world and u realize there are many ways that we don't need to grow for a while. Once we are able to understand that as hope, not defeat, maybe we have a chance.

 

At the JPFK Airport here in NYC, its 7 a.m. and very sunny. We've been here a week with a year's worth of energy. Its a madly neurotic city. We stayed in Manhattan in a little apartment in midtown, mixing with Patrick Dillett on the next A Love Electric record. I ran around a bunch, working with Billy Martin on our film, got to hang with guitar great David Tronzo at his place in New Hampshire.

Still living off a lot of what I got out of being in South America, the energy and art there. I settled on a title for the film, Awaking Alma. Its a little Spanglish, but Waking Spirit is whats been happening to me as I get to go out and create with these people, see what they do and why with music, and share a bit of humanity. I get back to life and less distracted by the world of commerce and want. 

This is a photo taken on the Ucayali River. We went up river 4 hours in this collective boat to live with a Shipibo community for some days. This boy and his father were on the boat, costs about one dollar, and gets you home.

 

Here are the father and mother of a shaman family we stayed with in the jungle. They sing, its quite incredible. Pedro and Anita. They also have Shipibo names, they are give both at birth, the Spanish slanted one and the Shipibo name. They mostly speak Shipibo with each other. Pedro's son was named Romnulo in Spanish, and in Shipibo something that translated to "bird that wakes". Quite beautiful.

 

And up to NYC, here's A Love Electric with Pat Dillett after our week of mixing and playing in the city. All good times. Look forward to getting this record out, Hernan produced it and we've taken great care to make certain its honest and us. 

 

Thanks for coming by. This month Im up ion the mountains in Oaxaca working with the CECAM orchestra. They'll be performing some A Love Electric tunes for a 50 plus member orchestra, pretty excited about that. Working a short EP with Renee Mooi as well, and gettign all in order to share this new record in August, and the film sometime in 2015.

 Ah yea, and Oscar Noriega, Phil Grenadier, Hernan Hecht, Brian Allen and I have a short run of jazz shows under the name "Voice of the Drowned" coming up. Music must be made. Its the best of us, when its right.

That is a cliche, but its worth mantric repetition when frustrated or angry. I want what I want and I want it now says the mighty world of need for a misunderstood success. Maybe I can look at my life as a legacy of actions and consequences, and the consequences of those, and on from there, and realize then what is important. Its another cliche, its love. You leave behind love. 

Im here in Peru, in Cuzco today, and have been able to experience things that will change my perspective forever. Im not the same as I was a week ago. Seeing the poverty that exists in Belen, a district in Iquitos of floating houses made of old politician signs, metal scrap, nothing sometimes, just some dead wood for a floor. And the beauty of indigenous communities n the Amazon. The horror of black market exotic animal trade and the bravery of many organizations who rescue these animals and rehabilitate them, at great cost and effort, so that they can re-enter their natural habitat.

People who will never have their music heard and do it anyway without complaint. They dont do it for adoration or the idea success, they do it for love. Thats what Im here to connect with. I forget all the time, mostly hourly, what I think I need and what I really need. I need honesty and hope. I dont need adoration. I dont need to present a false self or character to achieve a success that does not benefit others, or my long term well being. I lose this. Its easy to lose. The ego is vicious. But art, when its art for art, is the greatest gift we have. It takes the desperate self and makes it a community of hope.

Here's an image of a girl I met outside Cuzco. She was walking to the town center with her Alpaca after school to sell some bracelets. I've been playing and teaching a lot, but learning far more than I am able to give. The traditions are so deep and vary so heavily from one town to the next, its inspiring. 

Here in Atlanta at the airport I know and maybe love so well. Sunday we drove 6 hours in the morning from Chos Malal, on the border with Chile, 6 hours to Neuquen. We hung and ate with family. We then took a 14 hour bus from Neuquen to Buenos Aires, mostly passout the entire time. It had been 6 shows in 6 days with lots of running between. We wended up at this little bar in the afternoon drinking sparkling waters, thats all they had, in the hood near the airport, waiting for our planes. Aaron and Hernan went back to MX City and I'm on my way to Peru, but had to fly to Atlanta first, which was another 10 hours.

I love all that. I could live in planes and buses without thought. Constantly on the edge of discovery. 

The music we played in Argentina, and the crowds and venues, really felt encouraging. Some tours are good, some not. It can be hard. But it has to be, it makes the music go. This tour was exhausting but musically it was really heavy. We also played to big crowds, something not always the case. There are shows where a thousand people can be there, but we still have epic misses where 10 people show up in Metepec or Eugene, Oregon for whatever combination of reasons. But if you find a way and reason to make the music alive and vital on those, dead quiet, nights, you start to realize what its all about. Its not about who is there if its not first about the music. You have to battle for it, the creative process, the discovery, the truth. When you find it you cant explain it, but you feel it.

We are communicating in deeper ways, pushing further into the songs, and its just really human. Its emotional and its what allows me hope. 

Here's a video from the run I pieced together. Its light hearted and all, but come to a concert sometime. Got to feel it.

 

Its important for me to keep searching for new ways to write music. I've gone through periods where I feel I'm writing the same song over and over. Thats not what I want to do.

A few years ago I decided I would only listen to Monk, when what I heard was in my control, for a month. That created new ways of thinking about music and phrasing that helped. At other moments I've tried to put poems of Bukowski, or Billy Collins, into sound as a beginning for a song. The idea doesn't always strike you, you have to strike it.

Recently I've been watching films for their music. There is a storytelling quality, or story accompanying quality in music for cinema that I am drawn to. Whether the film exists or not, there is a distinct way the music lives. "Discreet Music", an ambient music of Brian Eno's, is a record I love that has this quality, but no film. Something about patience I think is what distinguishes the music from other to me. The sound is allowed to develop into something and tell a story, it is not rushed. 

How do I accomplish that patience, or intend to?

We find ourselves in a hurried modern world, with the idea that we are somehow going to win or have success, and this must be achieved with urgency, otherwise we "fail". Thats false of course, but often requires some tricking of the self to transcend. If I compose with an image, film, something, visual in mind, I am freed a bit. Knowing the music can depend on the image takes some of the weight and expectation off the composer of having to accomplish the entertainment piece. We can just compose in sound and let the visual piece do the entertaining or attention commanding. Compose that way, then take the image away, and beauty can come new.

 

 

Just A Reminder. One of these things people post on Social Media but I found got me thinking. There are people and situations I am afraid to tell the truth about when asked. They got the power. Then I think about why I play music. Im able to tell the truth, maybe indirectly, but its in there. I loathe the wicked politicking of the music industry, but participate. I want to share music. 

Art is Power. The power of the invididual. Art is the power of the individual to express. Art is the power of the individual to express and create community. Art is ours. It cannot be institutionalized. It is human. Its the blood that runs between what I write and what you read. That is art.

You cannot let yourself be compromised by a desire to belong in a world of institution, judgement and acceptance, thats not the great art of the tomorrows. Tomorrow's art is the art of the blood, of humanity, of our experience. This is what is happening. We get desperate and lose our art. This is why oppressive and repressive cut you at the knees, at the art. They want you to lose your voice. They want you to become confused, and cynical, and all knowing and quicker to judge than to consider, and that kills the art. And when the art is dead, we are dead. We just do. We don't live, we get lived. 

Art is only you. The way only you can think. That is why you are alive. That is why I am alive. To make our art. As one, as a community, as a society, and as a species. Do not be confused. Do not know other than knowing you must do what you are. There's no other reason to live. Do what you are. Be your art. 

Art is power. Power fails when not exercised. You have to use your art. You have to believe it. The less you think and the more you start doing it, the more you will know what you are doing is right. That is your art. Your big grand triumph in a world of opposition to how you feel is your ability to share it. 

Art is conversation. You don't have to paint. You don't have to sing. You can sit at a piano and be silent. That is art. Art is the action. The action of inaction. The action of action. Its what you decide it is. But YOU have to decide. You get to decide. And then thats art. Art is the choice to be alive. Art is power. Art is your power. Do it. Do it. Don't ask what is wrong before you try first. Your first word. There's your poem. Your first shout. This your protest, your agreement, your love, your anger, your triumph. Art is transcendence. You don't have to belong anywhere. Voice Voice Voice Art. Fear is the plague of modernity. Make your Art. Be an artist in speech, in silence. But be beauty. Whatever that means to you. Allow yourself to be alive.

We have a new world to create.

We Just finished a week in the Mexican state of Chiapas filming for a documentary on music. The film is a collaboration between Billy Martin, Mario Rodriguez, and myself. With the amount of travel we are doing with the band, it only made sense to make use of the downtime on the road. I often regret going somewhere and never experiencing it.

I hope we share the film sometime in the next year. For now, we have Argentina, Peru, New York and New Orleans, and much more Mexico to come. What I am learning is incredible. I am excited to share it, and to keep learning.

The world is small and big and mostly magic. The young are smart and know more than we think they do. Everyone wantsto feel alive and loved, and are willing to share that if they are receiving it. We are mostly all aware we live in a world of mass illusion, but accept parts of it as necessary to feed our families. The world can get better, hope is not over. Honesty feels profound. People have new ideas but are challenged and sometimes defeated by old ideas with money and power. Music is sacred. We are dreaming people, everyone. It takes smart work.

 

  I also got a chance to play in DUO with Billy, which turned into double duo for a set with Tom Kessler and Pedro Cervera. I still love being a child. Billy's advice to me has almost always been encouragement to express more sincerely and with conviction. The struggle with doubt, the great plague on humanity. After about 40 minutes of playing this set of music, Billy said to me, fuck it, go. All this came out after that. I am very happy it did. Love and trust, if it comes from others and is sincere, it helps me learn how to express those things myself without fixating on the outcome or reaction of others. It is a miracle when honesty is all that is important. That feeling transcends all I've learned and wanted to unlearn. There is no struggle then. For some moments.

 

Some years ago I took a kayak around Isla Espiritu Santo, Island of the Holy Spirit, just outside La Paz, MX, about a mile off land. I mostly wanted to disappear. I was not interested in seeing anyone and had brought just a backpack and guitar with me. The island is uninhabited and beautiful. Cliffs, caves, whales, a sea lion colony, and bay after bay of cove beach.

  I do not have any significant skill at kayaking, but was able to be out for 4 or 5 days on just what I had brought with me. I was a pretty confused person at the time, just at the end of a 3 year relationship, still quite shy, and at fight with doubt.The sun would go down at about 6 p.m. and I would sit and play guitar on the beaches I was on with no particular goal of practicing or writing. It felt nice to enjoy that freedom of no expectations from self or others.

   One afternoon I stopped at a beach where a family was also camped. It was very rare to see anyone else aside from a passing fishing boat while out around the island. The family was father, young girl, about 10 Id guess, and her brother, a couple years older. They had a story as well. I did not ask about it. They seemed happy and were inquisitive, but I sensed they knew I was bothered in the general sense. We ended up spending the late afternoon walking up into the rock formations on the island and talking only about the present. That seemed to work well for everyone.

   The daughter's name was Kaylee and she was very bright in word and presence. She asked repeatedly for me to play the guitar when we were walking, when we were eating, when we were seated on the beach. I could not really do it. I was really tired of doing anything for anybody else, as simple and lovely as it may be. 

    Later in the evening, about at sundown, I took my guitar and kayak for a short trip to a beach, also reachable by land, that was visible from the one we were camped at. I played  there for a few minutes until Kaylee walked over by herself and sat a ways away to listen. I kept playing and she listened without interrupting. She seemed to know that was what I needed. She walked away after a bit and I played into the night. In the morning I felt proud and less vulnerable. Something about her listening in such innocence and curiosity was very memorable.

     I wrote the song , "Kaylee", years after. It seemed to imply romance in how it came out, but the love is not of that kind, nor meant for any person in particular. Love for a moment that transcended doubt and desperation. Thanks to music and the sharing of it, I have had a number of these experiences.

  

The song was recorded solo on Wurlitzer electric piano at One East Studios in New York City.  Billy Martin was also there and played drums, though I don't remember if we did that live or he overdubbed them.  Anton Fier produced the record and had this old drum machine, analog, with protruding plastic buttons, it looked like an old wooden radio, that he created a loop with. I think the button on the machine was called "tango", or maybe "cha cha", don't recall exactly. Tony Scherr plays the upright bass on the song and made it alive in such a beautiful way. Anton suggested horn parts for the chorus, which I wrote out and Steven Bernstein played, the two of them moving things around a bit to help me out. Anton did a lot of that. Everyone that played is so thick in imagination and personality, everything is very alive on the record the way I hear it.

 

This Video Mario Rodriguez made was filmed with a handheld camera in Xilitla, Mexico.  

 

 

Todd Clouser - "Kaylee" Video (Official) from Todd Clouser on Vimeo.

 

 

I am on a plane going to Aguascalientes from Mexico City after leaving New York City this morning. We had a small rental car in New York City, Hernan and I, that suffered greatly in the 8 or so inches of snow that came last night. 

 

We recorded in a beautiful studio called Applehead, just outside of Woodstock for a few days and I was to play at NuBlu last night, but the snow, augmented by weather channel hysteria, stormed the gig out. I had about six amps to record out of at Applehead, all little and old, the two adjectives I desire most in choosing an amplifier. Great sounds, old ribbon microphones through a Neve console. Perhaps its a cliche now, but thats the sound I love. Everything has a little more blood to it.

 

 John Medeski came and recorded keyboards for a day as well. B3, acoustic piano, Rhodes, Wurli, and Clavinet. Mellotron got the most use of all. The mellotoron is a 60's era 3 octave keyboard. I don't know how it works, but its honest and a little twisted, like the best of us.

 

John offered to track on this record when he was down in Mexico last March to play a few shows with us. I have taken workshops with him over the years and became close with MMW. It was a joy to be able to play with John, and when he mentioned he would track on our record - not for hire - I took it as an opportunity to work on writing the best I could, every day, for the past 8 months or so.

 

I ended up with close to 80 songs, a lot of song fragments, and many little ideas scattered about suitcases and apartment floors. I have tracked about 5 rounds of demos at home, Hernan's studio, and with an iPhone on the road, then sent them to the band. Each time songs get cut, or combined, or mature. I love the process, this is where the living happens. Songs are what interest me most right now, ways to push and play within that tradition. Beautiful creation, the song. 

 

We ended up tracking 12 songs completely that will make the next A Love Electric record. I'm really happy with it. Im not sure I've ever felt that. Generally I know its not as good as it can be. I cut corners somewhere in the writing or recording. This time I took great care to not feel that way. I need to say some things and don't need to say others. I think this music will honor that very simple idea.

 

Share it soon. 

Thanks for coming by and embracing what we do. Thats the only way its possible.

 

Here is a photo of the amazing Mario Rodriguez in the Costa Rican rainforest.

 

 

 

 

Hey Everyone. Thank you for coming around.

I have been in Central America the past week, playing in Panama and working on a documentary in Costa Rica. Its beautiful here, people, land, sea, food. I'm just beginning work on a long project, but its gotten off well. Wanted to share the early pieces of what will be a film documentary and accompanying record that is taking us from NYC to Panama Pero, south of Argentina, and not sure where else yet.

Weent to Cahuita National Park today in Limon and the park entrance man was the grandson of the musician, Walter Ferguson, I was hoping to meet. We walked the park and I wrote for a while under the monkeys until we were directed to a small cafe where we met Walter Ferguson. Walter is an icon to many, though I only became of aware of his work in the past week traveling and playing here. For us from the US, his music connects to the Delta blues first generation (Walter being 91 years old), though with a more Caribbean color. Robert Johnson of Central America is how Ive heard it termed, though these comparisons always have their issues. Hear his music in the comments section below.

Walter was seated alone at the restaurant he hangs at daily. We talked for an hour about Calypso, why we make music, how he takes his notoriety, and Costa Rica. He is remarkably humble and warm. At 91, he does not see well but is as bright and deliberate with word as anyone I have met. 
I asked him his thoughts on the USA and he replied that he has only been to Connecticut once, so it wouldn't really be wise to have an opinion on an entire country of people he does not know.
Our talk will be part of a documentary on Musics of the Americas we continue work on with Billy Martin in February in Chiapas.

 

Good evening from Hotel Agapi on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica. There is a small island on the point you can see from our room where birds land in flocks, then fly away every few seconds as the waves crash.

 

Much Love

 

I try not to be contrarian. Im an addict in recovery thus always in battle with self destruction, not solely by means of substances, it comes many ways. I love rebellion and know most of the most influential voices in my life, those I chose, came from far outside the accepted norms of thought in their time. They saw bullshit and didn't participate. I try. Rebel intelligently, with progress as the ends. You choose the means.

Illusion is champion today - Build your "brand". Don't confuse the people! "Just make something people like.  - I call bullshit. Its a system of thought aimed at control by means of fear and denigration of the individual into mass consumer, segmenting us into a populace increasingly easy to convince is in need, of whatever. Of a place to belong. Jazz guys, metal guys, goth, hipster, so on and so on and so transient and removed from humanity and progress it is disheartening and has resulted in an plague of irony, depression, and fear.   We are better. First we just must recognize, and be willing to admit, we are not entirely who we think we are. Much of our identity, often confused with "personality", has been created for us by means of marketing. We are bigger than being this or that. Be whatever you want, and consider what that means, what you are not.

 

 But rebellion against mass behavior today, thus offering a chance at original thought, progressive thought, isn't what it was before. Its not LSD and dropping out. We've all dropped out. Out of humanity, care, conversation, and the ability to take our unique contribution to society seriously. If not dropped out, we've been kicked the fuck out. 

We don't want to be originals any longer - !this only requires us being ourselves! - We are taught to mock and malign those who present themselves as committed, with voice, with ideas that are truly new. Not just a blank "hope" or change", but true idea and action. If you are going to express over criticize, commit and say your piece over the self destructive habits of shame critique denigration of emotion, and call your emotions, thoughts what they are, it is going to hurt. But, the Bukowski quote comes to mind. The one where you will die laughing with the Gods of Fire. Its triumph every second. Beauty Complete.

 

Some actions I find rebellious in the way rebellion once offered porgress towards a new way of behavior and understanding, presumably one that offers us the chance to survive as a race, and exist with integrity.  - Its a new rebellion. Its evolution over revolution. Integrity.

 

1) Consider your statement. Consider yourself an important piece of history. Think through it. You're a Hero.

 

2) Work harder than anyone you know.

 

3) Forget about popularity.

 

4) Be on time.

 

5) Avoid irony and the safety offered in self deprication. Take what you do seriously. Believe in it. If you don't, say something else.

 

6) Don't get fucked up on your gig. Jim Morrisson took fashion seriously and called himself the Lizard King, but his lyrics were juvenile and their legacy empty. Watching someone self destruct on stage is easy for an audience, it lets fear subside, someone out there is worse and crazier and dying faster, but it does not offer progress. Its the falsest, cheapest, most cynical type of entertainment.

 

7) When you get angry, sing about it. 

I am good at falling at love, not always at living in it. I want to exist in some other feeling. I wrote this song, "How To Trust a Lover" (listen below) after a loss I thought I wanted, sitting on a one sheet bed in a barely standing pink colored motel halfway down the Baja Peninsula in a town called Cataviña. 
I was afraid I was losing whatever hurried blood I had. Worried myimagination was growing dull. Worried from knowing that I was like all of us.

We recorded the song as solo guitar at One East Studios in NYC and sang it afterwards. Anton Fier produced the record, and decided to leave it mostly as voice and guitar. We didn't really talk about that decision, but I know he appreciates the honest expression of vulnerability. Yohei Goto engineered and is the quiet hero of this record.

We talked about playing a melody line or solo on it, and it didn't feel right to me to overdub guitar. Guitar solos I've done too many, and didn't want to impose that on a song like this. I suggested Steven Bernstein come play one note. His one note isn't like anyone else's. It hangs in the beautiful spots. He ended up playing three notes. I wasn't there when he tracked, but its my favorite moment on the record. Erik Deutsch plays the B3. Billy Martin, whose home I stayed at during the recording, plays some shakers and percussion magic.

"Man With No Country" is the record, out on Amulet Records and available at stores and online everywhere.

The video is in the comment below, just a moving image in hopes the eyes keep the ears in place long enough to hear the song. I filmed it with my phone at a Cenote on the Yucatan Peninsula an hour outside of Merida.

How To Trust a Lover - Todd Clouser - Produced by Anton Fier - With Steven Bernstein, Erik Deutsch, Billy Martin from Todd Clouser on Vimeo.

 

I was planning to work on some music last night but got into to this Facebook circle on the visual arts. A friend asked me (Facebook terms, not certain) to post a painting by Monet, and assign an artist to each person that like the painting. The result was hours of discovery. There was a lot of liking happening that got me researching artists I never would have, committed as I was to seeing my part of the deal through.

Below a few of the discoveries. This is not meant to be a substitute for engaging fully into these artists' work, more time required now! All these artists have work you can view online with a simple Google or preferred search engine search.

 

   This is a painting by done in blood by Jordan Eagle. 

 

A surrealist photographer from Iran, Hossein Zare.

 

The body art of the Surma people, southern Africa.

 

 

Max Ernst. 20th Centruy German Painter/Sculptor.

Monet's "Sunrise' interpreted on a man's face.

Kimsooja "To Breathe - A Mirror Woman"

There was much much more, but hopefully thats something new, and enough to get started.

 

There was something happening there. I cant do much to explain. Something between the stars and my body. The space in there. I am reading the universe is a hologram. Dictionary.com says about a hologram (among other things) "when it is placed in a beam of coherent light a true three-dimensional image ofthe subject is formed." To think that perhaps we don't exist until there is light. Of course there is light in darkness. Thats matter for the scientists.

Out on a beach where people come to visit and walk, hand in hand, or the young couple naked, the old drunk I was preparing to be. Its not much like that any more. Sometimes I find that of concern. Things are going pretty well in my life, as far as I can tell. What to make of that? Pain, I know what to do with. Peace, thats frightening. 

Love your loved ones wildly in this Holiday season. 

Im in a hotel lobby in Los Cabos booking nights in Panama for mornings in more hotel lobbies. While all the work and music is happening I can forget easily that I need to be listening. Always.

Some new music that I fall hard for.

True story about Panama. New years in Panama City with a guitar. Where does one go from there?

 

ECM and Beauty A Vicious Japan

Dancing. My veins live in Keith Jarrett's piano.

See illusion for illusion.

How it Feels when the Music Happens

 

When music happens like it can, you leave the ground. Anything petty dissolves into its own weakness. You are left in air with gods and colors, the people you are making sound with, and whoever in the audience has come along that night. Its the contrary of escape. Politics go away. Image, money, vanity, irony all become meaningless. It feels like being human. You are vulnerable and dying in a brilliant howl of naked life. 

I moved to Mexico City to make the music I want to make. Most everything I've done since my late teens was in the interest of making music. Its the only way I know how to try and make sense plausible. Sense I have not found but the possibility of beauty, I have. The process is what is important. We are all going nowhere, but capable of how we get there, what we experience, what we leave behind us.

In the city here I play music most nights on a stage. I am told it is self destructive to play this often in regards to creating demand and developing some sort of image. It doesn't matter. I want to die having done all I could. Last night I played a lot of new music I have been writing with a group we are calling Film Speak. Im thinking about adding an "s". Film Speaks. I left happy and knowing three other people in an intimate way. How we communicate and share with each other is beautiful when it is allowed to happen.

Tonight Im going down the street with my friend Daniel Jodocy to make music to short film. I have no plans for how I will feel tomorrow, but there is a chance something new will be alive in me.

 

Just saying...

 

Gets me living

When I was living in the Baja, I rented an apartment a few stories beneath a pretty happening woman in her 60's. Also a heavy drinker and smoker at the time, she came to many of our shows. 

I performed often with a saxophonist from Uruguay, a short bearded man in his early 20's with exceptional talent and vacant ego, an inimitable character always at ease. He dated the woman upstairs for a while, moving into her penthouse apartment. They had about 40 years difference in age and the relationship had a volatility gone unhealthy from it's onset. They would break up often, though also kiss wildly at bars and restaurants in between our sets.

The last time they separated he moved into her garage. She had given him the lockpad code once asking him to bring up a case of wine. She didn't use the space for much else. She barely left the apartment in the daytime, and parked her car outside. He lived there for about a month without her knowing, an air mattress set on the garage floor and a small reading lamp next to a loop station, bass guitar, and saxophones. The ocean nearby gave him a chance to stay clean, and he'd come by my apartment once a week or so for a shower. We used to rehearse in the garage and drink Mexican 40's. 

He had plans to move on to Spain or somewhere, it wasn't really important to him the where as it was keeping in motion.

The last night he was in town we played at a small club in duo. She came to listen, to his surprise. We took a break and I went outside to smoke cigarettes. When it was time to play again, I came in the little club and they were on the back bench, bodies and tongues twisted and embracing. This happened for a while and then we played another set. When we finished playing, the two of them went outside for cigarettes - she smoked the long white kind marked by lipstick - and he explained he had been living in her garage. She thought it was awesome and fascinating. The two of them spent that night on the air mattress, ascending to the penthouse in morning for Bailey's and coffee.

This is the song "Where's Her Money From" off the record Man With No Country 
RECORDED initially in duo with Anton Fier - Tony Scherr plays the most wicked of bass parts
VIDEO made with Mario Rodriguez in Xilitla, Mexico

From the Recent Amulet Records release "Man With No Country" http://www.amuletrecords.com/CATALOG/amt035/amt035.htm

 

Songs are always about something. I enjoy telling the stories of how they come.
Clock At the Top of The Town is confused, but knows it.
When we were tracking the Man With No Country record, once called Song, I would walk most mornings down 9th Avenue in midtown Manhattan to 47th st where the studio was. Morning walking outside came with scare. I only wanted to get to the studio, put the headphones on, and start the howling. I love making music in New York City, and I grew up on heroes that live somewhere in the city's history, but I can't stand Manhattan as it is now. It makes me neurotic and subject to feeling object. I don't seem to be alone in that. 
I find myself short tempered and passively ill-willed if Im in the city for a few days. Its frightening. 
So one morning I decided I needed to write, its helpful when I have any interest in what is going on within. I wrote a song in the third person about my backflipped, doubt sick, desperate, somber character aching through the city. 
There is a desperate monotony to the towering clock on one of the old buildings in midtown I dont know the name of. I would see it every night walking home. I was recording alone, I didn't have a band. Solitude in mass. Nights in the head wondering if I was alright, and if the record was going to be any good.
I would pass a corner some afternoons where there was a row of Korean restaurants, some very good ones. There were a few men preaching something half-heartedly gathered, and the word "truth" was used frequently. Maybe they know it. At the time I was ripe for illusory salvation.
So I would walk wide -eyed but blind to everything I had to be blind to to allow my heart to survive. I found that sad. It kept me from making love. But I got this song out of it.

RECORDED in Duo with Anton Fier and the rest came later, directed by Anton. Billy Martin's percussion parts I love.
VIDEO shot with Billy and Matt Mclain outside the city. There is a cameo by Alejandro Ciari.

 

We just got back from Europe - Portugal, Spain, Germany. It was our best tour thus far. People came out to all the shows, the music was heavy, and we are heading back soon.

 

 

Setlist somewhere. I usually ask Hernan to borrow a pen a few minutes before the show and reach in the pocket for a receipt. Inevitably, the pen is lost after the list is made and we dont play the set anything like it was written.

Friend from clean up days in Minnesota, Derek Kelly, came out to our show in Jersey and bought the first copy sold of "Man With No Country".

Spiderman has gotten sad in Times Square.

 Hernan practicing in the Catskills. This beautiful and magic barn at a friend of the band's home.

Chaim Tolwin has a collection of percussion instruments.

This is Dred Scott with his daughter Lucy. Dred played with ALE at Shapeshifter Lab in Brooklyn and Lucy took the show in with her moms.

Sunrise walk in Berlin.

Foreshadowing at Jazzclub Tonne in Dresden. 

Chaim Tolwin's place, and his protector, Bear, in a city with no name, upstate NY. 

James Blood Ulmer plays here? Must be good tonight.

Tuesday the new record came out. Converse to previous experience, I love this record more with time. 

The recording process was many things, though easy was not one of them. It took a type of commitment and collaboration I was new to, and for that took a bit longer. I tend to be impulsive. This record was made patiently. 

I am at peace with the music on it. I truly like it. Most encouraging is the community born out of its recording. I grew very close to Anton Fier as we shared everything in making this record. We see each other at our most vulnerable if we want to get something this honest out. Billy Matin gave me a home, a label to release it on after listening, and perspective. Bernstein saved me from believing my music was worthless four years ago. Now we have this piece of art. It has weight to me, though the sensation in releasing it is very freeing and unarming. 

Here are some photographs of the process in the studio. We took a little over two years to make and release the record. I am happy that is how it went. three studios, a couple entire sessions scrapped. Anton had a vision in hearing what I did and how to get at what could be great about it. It was not easy to get there, but it was right.

Good evening from Evora, Portugal.

As a foreigner with mediocre command of the Spanish language, I dont feel qualified to comment on Mexico's history and politics with any profundity. As a human being, and someone who lives and loves the country and city, I feel comfortable saying the president, PRI, and authorities deployed to the Zocalo to violently remove peaceful protesters (whether you are in agreement with their cause or not, or bothered by the traffic jams caused - of little significance in a vision more grand) confirms, once again, that these people are shameless scum. What to do about it? Don't politik the same. Turn off our televisions. Create something. Educate and truth them to inconsequence. We have to be honest in what we do. If we hate them until we are them, all the while politicking with untruths gentle or vicious, we support the idea that power and a mystic, sickened understanding of "success" - which implies the ugliest concept of all, superiority - is more important than integrity. That is backwards, of course.

Greetings from beautiful Lisbon. Abrazos todos - Often times reviews dont mean much. This one is different.  

NYC's Dowtown Music Gallery claims our new record "Man With No Country"is "definetely the punk-rock-song record of the year (Decade?)". DMG is the creative music authority I've been subscribing to for over a decade. Its very special they took the time to check out our new album, much less rave about it.

 I recorded "Man With No Country" with Anton Fier (Golden Palominos, Michael Stipe (REM), Lounge Lizards) producing and Billy Martin - a hero since my teens, now dear friend - is releasing it on his label, directing videos for the "singles", and giving me a home while in NYC recording and playing. -   

11 singing songs of my own, "Man With No Country" can now be pre-ordered on ITUNES with a video directed by Billy Martin, or at the Amulet Records Store herehttp://www.amuletrecords.com/CATALOG/amt035/amt035.htm.

DMG goes on to say " Oh My God. Intelligent Songs, creative and masterful playing from all the luminaries involved - and Todd himself! - it's punk, new wave, no-wave, singer-songwriter all at once, BUT it's not retro, it's completely FRESH!      

2 . We're still coming down from two magic shows in Berlin and Dresden to full houses. Portugal and Spain this week and then its back to Mexico and long runs in the western US. All the dates are up at www.toddclouser.com.

3We need you! DMG thinks we're good, and commitment has never been greater, but making music a life's work requires help. We need yours! Please spread the word, share on your social media, invite friends to our shows, anything you can to let people know we are out making impassioned music. Once people know, they keep coming back. Your word means a lot to your friends and is our way to reach new ears. Your support is not taken for granted.

4. Interview with Billy Martin - Billy took some time to interview me in his truck, talking "Man With No Country". I still get a bit awe-struck at times hanging with Billy. Watch it happen on tape!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZfZjE8B1cY&feature=youtu.be 

 

Thank You for your supprot and time reading. Much Love. Todd

 

Buenos dias New Jersey. Esta noche A Love Electric - Mexicali Live, 9 p.m., Teaneck, NJ.
Recalls the tale of the ALE show that never was in Mexicali proper. We'd been in the car a number of days driving and playing the Baja peninsula. We'd played Ensenada and spent the day up across la Rumorosa, an infamous stretch of highway that runs parallel to the US- MX border, up thousands of stories in desert mountain and howling heat. Along the fence. There's no music you listen to on a drive like that. Silence is all that works. 
We got to the venue hotel and there were no rooms. The promoter showed up shaky and let us know the show's location had changed. 
Suspicions grew when he could not recall the address, nor name, of the new venue. Nonetheless, we had our rooms, it was 105 degrees outside, and rest was required. We'd been thousands of feet in the air that day.
Showtime came and we were sent circling the city looking for a place whose name I cant recall but sounded more like a taqueria than the 500 seat club we were slated to play. Past the strip clubs and wandering American men down for a Friday night, through Chinatown-Mexicali (there is a very large Chinese population in Mexicali, though the food still seems inauthentically prepared), and sadly lit street to the venue address. It was a taqueria minus charm. The promoter was there and timidly, in circle speak, when pressed, relayed that his bar had been closed down by some political foe in the days prior to our arrival. Music, industry, politic. They should be teaching that in the music schools.
There were three or four men at the bar eating peanuts and dressed in dramatic belt buckles and cowboy hats. More sombreros I suppose. Whether you'd call it cowboy or sombrero, its up to who does the wearing. George Bush wears a cowboy hat, Tom Waits wears sombreros. There was also a Tama rack tom drum kit set up in the corner. 
I asked the promoter for the rest of the money he owed us and we went back to the hotel.

I've spent the past couple days back in Billy Martin's basement outside NYC. A second home and where I lived while tracking 'Man With N Country". I've probably stayed here a month's worth of nights over the past year. A second family that has embraced what I am working on. I am very grateful.

 

Billy has a teahouse he built surrounded by a bamboo garden in his back yard. Go inside and you can be anywhere. I've been writing here a bit. Last night I sat at the piano until quite late working on some songs and exercising wonder, stream of conscience, transcending conscience. Improvising on the piano and talking to myself. An observer would see it as madly schizophrenic, Id guess, depends on the observer, but the places it is able to get me are encouraging.

 

Into the city today for some playing with a great guitarist, Eyal Maoz. Aaron and Hernan arrive this evening.

 

 

At a cafe, Mom's Dutch Kitchen, in Pennsylvania between Pittsburgh and New York City. Its Amish Country. Women have nets around their hair and men have beards. I feel underdressed but am treated courteously. 

Last night I played at the Thunderbird in Pittsburgh with Tony Grey and David Throckmorton. Those guys are fucking amazing. People and musicians. Played lots of ALE and some old tunes like "Mo City Kid" I hadn't done since I was in high school, as far as I remember. Something new to keep me uneasy enough to be vulnerable every night. The weakness is from where the conviction is born. Get shook up and beat up a bit and you'll find out fast if you really believe in what you're doing or not. 
On to Billy Martin's house in Jersey. The Martins are my second family. I sleep in their tea house when I'm in New Jersey. Its good time to write, eat family dinners, and hang with someone who inspired me as a young teenager to commit to your art with all you got, regardless of how fucked up someone may say you are. That's a hero. Someone to teach you conviction, even if its at odds with their own. 
The music was really good last night. Tony, who I respect and admire beyond words, had some really beautiful things to say after the gig. Things like that are very meaningful. The first tour I did Tony was in the band we were co-billing with, he's seen it when there was growth to be had. You get to know the hearts of these people. 
Setlist  Thunderbird Cafe 31/8/2013
Hollow Ego
This Means Love
All Apologies
Man With No Country
Pocketful of Bones
Where's Her Money From
How to Trust a Lover
Clock at the Top of the Town
Wake and Shake Your Heart
Curtis

 

 

The spaces between American cities are beautiful. Today, down through the Catskills, Adirondacks, cafes and gas stations with family names. The cities of the United States are disappointing to me. You can be in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Times Square, or the waterfront in Seattle and you find a Starbucks , a Wendy's, Best Buy, and whatever McDonald's owns that isn't called McDonald's. Some people like the predictability. I only want to know whats coming when Im scared of what might not. It's like listening to corporate radio. Shades of beige. You don't have to pay attention to, or participate in, that degradation of the human spirit. You don't have to practice homogeny nor adhere to it.  My heart has to feel alive, not suffocated by same. Im more at home in Honduras than the American suburbs I grew up in. Just how the brain works I guess. Also God.
Burlington was a fun show in a super vibey room called Radio Bean. I played solo and am enjoying that more and more. Some things to work on and flesh out, but there's an immediacy in communicating that way. I played the set without stopping. Im not always comfortable making people feel like they have to clap after everything. Just tune in at the beginning and out at the end. I like that concept, that the concert is one long story birthed in the moment. 
Setlist The Radio Bean - Burlington, VT   8/30/2013
Mighty Bird
Hollow Ego
Pocketful of Bones
Never
Rock and Roll (Velvet Underground)
I'm Afraid of Americans (David Bowie)
How to Trust a Lover
Wake and Shake Your Heart
Where's Her Money From
Real Kind Mama (Blind Willie McTell)
The Naked Beat
Your Sin is Beauty
The Golden Age (Beck)
Set played without pauses

 

Hoy - viajando a Burlington, Vermont. Es una ciudad conocido por Ben and Jerry's ice cream, Lake Champlain (frío a nivel ridículo), y la banda Phish. Vivia aquí 6 meses cuando tenia 18 anos. No recuerdo mucho de esos anos, aparte de estar crudo y confundido las mayores de las mananas. Creci tarde. La única que recuerdo que me daba un poco de paz es tocando mi gitana acústica, bajo de un árbol, en la noche, silencio en el pueblo, aire frio, montanas verdes escondido por la oscuridad, el hospital en el cumbre de la colina,  a veces pensando necesito irme. Queria. Alguien para cuidar en mi. Yo, solo pero nervioso. Demasiados pensamientos.

Ahora tengo algo mas cerca de paz. Por música, dejando la fiesta, dejando demasiadas cosas insaludables. Corro buscando algo. Y a aveces lo encuentro - en el escenario, platicando con la banda, platicando con el senor que esta sentado a lado de mi. Tiene como 80 anos. Me invita conocer un caballo. Tiene un rancho que esta cerca. Voy. Buscando. 

 

 

Music saved me when I was broke everywhere, as it was what I felt I could still be great at. It takes constraining ego and turning it to inquisition. Thats the excitement of a chance at living. Possibility. If you've ever taught kids, you have seen this is innate, the illumination of self when wonder is introduced. 

Music is my way to talk with whatever God might be. Thats where I find it. It may be of complete inconsequence to anyone else, and I have to be at peace with that.  I played solo last night at a toy museum in Mexico City. I was able to transcend whatever problems I think I have or anyone else has and communicate on a level that is all emotion. We could all feel it there. It doesnt happen every night, but it gets close. It comes in different colors. You have to allow it to. And not worry about your place in a world confused about places. Dont feel bad for you, ever. You got enough enemies you dont know about, dont add yourself.

Self pity is the death of possibility.

We are not more important nor deserve anything more than anyone else. When we can say and truly believe that, we have transcended the greatest illusion of our time - that of superiority. Music, when its about music, is the ultimate voice of equality. Beat the illusion and inquire. Be the mule.

Hello dear friend. We demand a world where creativity is celebrated over vanity. We allow ourselves to be fascinated. We demand a world less grey. We allow for the outrageous. We allow for love. We demand a world rigid only in its adherence to wonder, and progress. 

Years are passing. I am disenchanted with the political process. From governments to music career illusionists, they are liars at their best. This is not self pity. It is being resolute. There is quality, and honest intention. I do not always achieve it. We are not good as a society at identifying it. We are plagued by distraction. Our patience and interest has deteriorated into a narcisstic impulse to receive immediate pleasure.

I think we are better than that. I think we are capable of the extraordinary. Our life is not about us. It is about what we create that outlasts us. Think about that. This thing is not about me. I just die. I get to enjoy some things here, but truly what I find worthwhile is finding new. Be the first do something the way you do it. That inspires me. There are young and old people everywhere defying the norms of limitation. It is beautiful and inspiring.

Careful with people that have something to lose.

I dont know anything about how anyone else should be. There is infinite possibility in us, though we often cage it, or allow it to be caged, with and by fear. We are herd animals and want to be accepted. I have hurt from this. But it goes nowhere. 

Discovery hurts, and rewards. Chance is beautiful but intimidating. Resolution is in-absolute yet carries truth. 

Consumption is colored by a quite desperation to belong. We were born belonging. They would have us forget this and look elsewhere for answers, as insecurity of one means money for another. They are wrong. We belong to each other and a much greater love. Of wonder, of possibility, of growth. That is what I am concerned with. 

Be the Mule.

Our run up the Baja was unforgettable. Check out what Hernan put together here -

We wake and we write

tomorrow is our time

tatto sagging ines

Over in the neighborhood

walking for my breakfast

Put my feet on the edges

Of the curb, the birds bouncin

Like kiddies in the clubs

In Budapest or Gurns

Murdered by the beat

Are hate, come relief

Little sun little shade

Is she lazy or afraid?

Brings me knifes 

Brings me forks

Lemonade bread and corn

Don't call it a bar

If its for greens

Don't call me hopeless

I've been called everything

How bitter can we be

She's not gonna get naked

its TV

She's a tramp and a tease

Prostituting what she needs

Plastic cover 

And there's signal here

Al Gore in a suit

barely holding all its contents

Growing like a tumor

Making speeches out of rumors

Thats how they call him

They paint him wild boy

He's not wild

He just wants some attention

We all know the Earth is shattering

There is a beauty of exceptional depth in the choice to only express what is essential

There is a trust expressed in the human this way

We need not be overt and obvious

The joy of silence we know will be interrupted

By some act making a sound

The sound is the surprise, taking us where we allow it to

We played at Fairfest today. Big stage, sound. Its 90 degrees and humid as hell and we played the 5 p.m. set. Then Bonerama played, behind their new disc "Shake It Baby". Some more people meandered in. I dont know, I am confused. Mmmmm.... Actually, nope not at all. Say something real and honest and with YOUR heart. Love it and believe it. Consider integrity. Mediocrity is continually lowering the bar on itself. Demand imagination and substance. We're worth a lot more than we sell ourselves for. 

We are midway up the Baja Peninsula, the fingered fragment of land protruding from the American California. The town is called Catavina and is home to a 12 room hotel and a cafe that sit on opposite sides of the highway, which is really just a street. Its impossible desert here. No one lives. They pass by. That being said, the municipal governor is seated behind us at the cafe where we have stopped to have something between breakfast and lunch. Anything with chicken in it can't truly be considered breakfast. Or perhaps this is my suffering American mind of minute possibility and finite judgement at work again. Confusion in no pattern.

   Municipal governor, translated to American, is something like "mayor of the city and surrounding areas". Given that Catavina is surrounded by hundreds of miles of desert, rocks, cirios, and ocean in all directions, the honorable titleholder seated behind us seems to have found himself as decent a job as one could demand given the constraints of location. The well suited men in Mexico City send over money from time to time. 

The governor is being pestered a bit by a shoeless man with dreadlocks who has just entered the cafe. The man is interested in opening a business. He is offering to pay the mayor 200 pesos, about 17 US dollars, as start up fee. The mayor pretends not to hear him. He is reading the newspaper, which is 4 pages thick and covers a week's worth of news. Something happened a couple hundred miles south in Guerrero Negro, those bastards down there have a real sharp sense of humor as far as they're concerned, with a Japanese fishing boat. This man is no fan of the Japanese.

     Food is being served and the man, despite not being heard, is counting his plea for business, though now he is not offering to open one for the town's benefit, he his a salesman. He is the representative of a woman met out front passing through, a craftswoman of necklaces and rings. Pretty marginal, but they do appear to be originals. The mayor shows some interest and hands the man 100 pesos. He will pick his necklace once he is done eating. Outside there are 4 people in town. Smoking cigarettes and lamenting lack of money. They are surrounded by dozens of cars left from decades. A 60's style ambulance that looks like a hurst. A jeep with no floor. Then there is a horse in a small pen, barbed wire enclosed. Dusty, but healthy and well fed. He stands up from the shade the metal siding of the mayor's home and greets us. 

The entire experience up the Baja has been quite surreal. From impossible natural beauty to people warm and cold, to a really startling experience observing the fences up between the two countries. There's some sadness in that we've resigned ourselves to the idea that we cannot live together, tempered by hope in actual person to person interaction, sharing of ideas, and the transcendental capacity of music. But really, the fences, I will not forget that, it is quite disturbing, sad, even silly when you are standing there. Its not a spectacle to be glorified, its just dumbfounding if you actually consider the what, why, who does it. Houses on each side that look the same. Bizarre world we've created sometimes. Overwhelmed, mix of confusion, gratitude, a bit of anger, some hope. All surreal.

 

The way things have turned on themselves, the most rebellious, art committed, revel/evo-lutionary spirited act you can make with your music is to show up to your gig, play it sober and vulnerable, with every emotion you have available for uncovering, and tell the truth. Acknowledge beauty. Committ with class. Get in your art. Call it art. Be serious about yourself. Demand great. Love it when its not. Then make something else. Commit to growth.

 

Hang and listen and opine. Hug and love. Thats badass.  Tell the truth and be direct. Vibery is cheap, easy egoism and ultimately reeks of desperation for adoration. 

 

Hardest and easiest. Be yourself. Ask that of others. 

 

 Invite others, don't be angry if they don't come.

There is a depth to what some musicians do that does not lie solely in sound. They communicate a possibility through their playing. At times, the experience completely transcends mind and body. We laugh and move in new ways.

I considered not writing anything about the shows with Medeski. They were more significant than a blog post (a term that is becoming increasingly bothersome), there is danger in trying to quantify with language, and most dangerous feigning for increased attention. Its not about accomplishment or being associated with John or any other great player. Thats not what I want to communicate. I hope its joy. 

Through a series of fortunate events and blind ambition, I was able to organize a week of shows with John in Los Cabos. The idea was to explore some of what I do with music in a unique way each of three nights, and include as many friends and collaborators as possible who have been a part of what has happened the past couple years, all generous with time and energy.

The first night we played with A Love Electric in a large theater. Aaron and Hernan are family, and brilliant, passionate people. We all communicated and created something pretty vicious. I managed to stay from getting nervous and really just celebrate. The music between the three of us is at that point where it has become malleable again in a way that allows us to honor intrigue in any way on any night. There was no rehearsal between the four of us, allowing the music to be increasingly potent when it hit. 

Here's me kind of explaining what we were going to do to John while Hernan sheds. 

All photos, video taken by Mario Rodriguez, who I would recommend as photographer, and just general human being. mariorodriguezphotographer@gmail.com 

The second night was in trio with Chris Bates on bass, John, and myself. We played free to a small, full room, called Syriaccus in San Josse del Cabo. We did not talk about the music before hand. It was all improvised. It was not a groove fest. It was sounds. No drummer. 

The last night we played at this new hotel called El Ganzo. We played songs, mostly limiting ourselves to them, original songs from a record produced by Anton Fier, who played drums, that will be released in September on Billy Martin's record label, Amulet. We did play once cover, the Marvin Pontiac classic "Runnin Round". Which you can hear John go off on below. The stage and setup are a bit silly, but the music was fun.

 

Onwards in growth.

Thanks for reading

Much Love

Todd

 

This afternoon we played a festival on the outsides of Mexico City (steal that song title not please) at a place called FARO de Oriente. Its a big 6 block by 6 block piece of concrete with concrete buildings scattering the grounds on the side of a major highway. It is not an area of wealth in resource. But something amazing and beautiful happens there. Adolescents, children up through early 20's go to the center, inquisitive, those of age do so at their own will, to study art, take free classes in things as varied as computer animation to playing the birambao to music theory, craft, sound, Nahuatl. Kids smile and seem engaged and grateful, wanting to talk, share, and learn from/with you. 
The spirit is infectious and undeniable. Every wall is a painting, and there are crafts hanging from most every ceiling.  Its not a story of overcoming. Its a story of actual living, real community, where the individual and their voice is celebrated as part of a whole, and interdependence in discovery and expression that comes from the self is recognized. Because outside is hard.
 
I was interviewed after by a 19 year old kid that ran the radio station at the center. He asked me about going to Berklee in awe. I told him I was in awe of what he had. I live on the outside of it, and am not naive to there being a darker side and challenge, but someone thought humans worth enough to create this place where there was only love. Takes belief.  Thanks again to music for getting us to places that illuminate. 

This afternoon we played a festival on the outsides of Mexico City (steal that song title not please) at a place called FARO de Oriente. Its a big 6 block by 6 block piece of concrete with concrete buildings scattering the grounds on the side of a major highway. It is not an area of wealth in resource. But something amazing and beautiful happens there. Adolescents, children up through early 20's go to the center, inquisitive, those of age do so at their own will, to study art, take free classes in things as varied as computer animation to playing the birambao to music theory, craft, sound, Nahuatl. Kids smile and seem engaged and grateful, wanting to talk, share, and learn from/with you. The spirit is infectious and undeniable. Every wall is a painting, and there are crafts hanging from most every ceiling.  Its not a story of overcoming. Its a story of actual living, real community, where the individual and their voice is celebrated as part of a whole, and interdependence in discovery and expression that comes from the self is recognized. Because outside is hard. I was interviewed after by a 19 year old kid that ran the radio station at the center. He asked me about going to Berklee in awe. I told him I was in awe of what he had. I live on the outside of it, and am not naive to there being a darker side and challenge, but someone thought humans worth enough to create this place where there was only love. Takes belief.  Thanks again to music for getting us to places that illuminate. 

 

The best people to play music for are the ones over the bullshit. Or unaware of it.

They don't have any interest in being sold anything, or part of anything. They just want the music, and to feel it. Kids, people without TVs, the elderly, the ones past judgement. Passion receptive, gimmick allergic. People call them dreamers, dropouts, but they always end up being right when, if, we look back and consider.

We want to be lifted, torn up, bloodshook. Voice and character. Acknowledgement of each other as equal, valid beings worthy of truth.

Thats why music is beautiful and it wins. It sheds the untruths. At its core, it is only language, and communication, but one that carries a weight, a possibility, of transcending the capabilities of any other means of communication. It communicates feelings.

Experience is shared in an abstract manner that is somehow more direct and revelatory than any spoken word. It is beauty when allowed to be so.

When your goals are for music, for art, and for each other, a concept of truth beyond yes' and no's exists.  I don't know why. Thats not important.

 

Whats is important is that we respect that. And nurture it, love it, share it, speak honestly and openly about it. Feelings. Yes, feelings. How we feel. Don't be cheap on yourself. Believe big. Go with who you love, and what you love.

 

On our recent midwest/mtn west/desert west/coastal west/ MX everywhere tour, A Love Electric - Hernan HechtAarón Cruz and I - had Artis the Spoonman join us at Nectar Lounge in Seattle.
Artis is a legendary street performer from Seattle and a passionate, endearing man. I was inspired by his commitment to performance in preparing for the show, and encouraged by the reminder that we live amongst bright and bold individuality. We all finished the night humbled by what music had done to us, family now. Artis the Spoonman

Here is a bit of video from the show.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbZz-F2YpS0

 

This essay was recently published on alteredscale.com and in print - check out their new Arts Journal vol. 3 

Entitled "Be The Mule"

http://alteredscale.com/gallery-on-music/

We are a little beyond halfway through a mid/mtn/far west US run.  Its been really encouraging and fun the entire way. WE opened for Mike Dillon's band for a few shows and began west for a series of inexplicably beautiful drives. Through thte Texas panhandle. Hernan had gravy at the Econo Lodge there in Shamrock. Didn't go well.

But on through northern New Mexico, desert to foothill to Great sand Dunes National Park and the Rockies. I don't like that they named a sports team after the mountain range. Cheapens the range, though probably an effective branding campaign for the team.

We played in Moab on a Monday. Utah. I got pulled over for speeding in what is rated the "toughest police town in the US". I told the policeman I agreed I was speeding. He let us go because he liked music, especially rock, and the idea that we are a trio, "like Rush", he said.

Then came Highway 50 through Nevada. There is nothing there. Its just gorgeous and calming. And songs come dangerously. Its hard to drive and remember the 5 songs you are writing. I love that so much though. I've been driving around the country since I was allowed to, when I turned 16, mostly listening to and playing music, and it is never tiring. I wouldn't want to live anyway else. New people to look in the eye, make sound for. Its all very altruistic. 

We got through Nevada, played a good show in Oakland, then came up the mountain pass again through a a few feet of snow and played one of the best shows I can remember in South Lake Tahoe. "Best" is a horrible word. I don't mean in terms of how many people came out, or perfection in execution, but in discovery. We found further depth, commitment, and substance. Thats why we do it. The rest goes away.

We have a coupl emore days here in Tahe, then up the coast to Seattle and Portland. I sent an email to the Spoonman, this man Artis, a rather well known street performer, plays percussion with spoons, and asked if he would play with us in Seattle. He is into it, and a very interesting man beyond that. Looking forward to more of the dream

I'm writing this from the corner chair in Billy Martin's living room. I stay here in his basement when I am in NYC. He and family are real as we can be. I love them dearly and am humbled I ended up in this wild life where I sleep in the basements of my heroes. Billy is an artist. A real one that speaks with a voice his own. He is helping me with my music and career, really just by talking to me at all, but it has grown to a place where I am comfortable being given drect advice or criticism, and he is comfortable delivering it. That is friendship that has matured. And it is serious. Serious love. Because we both want the same thing. Great art and fairness for it. Not just for ourselves. We do not sit and talk about the way to make the most money the fastest. We are talking about how to make the most honest art forever. Part of that is making sure you have enough money to make it. But thats it. I can't pretend I'm near reaching the level of honesty billy has with his art, but I can look him in the eyes when we are talking and feel a bit of what it is like to be there. Its hard, but joyous, that place. I don't want fame. I want legacy. Even if I am the only one that notices.

I fell into this world of beautiful family, and somehow deduced from that how to forge relationships with impassioned, committed people. Steven Bernstein, Billy, Anton Fier. It is a disservice to mention people, their names only separated by a comma, when they have touched me so profoundly.

FInd a mentor. Send your heroes, the real ones who you admire for what they stand for, a mail. The real ones. The ones who celebrate integrity over adoration. The world is full of quiet miracle makers. 

I am going to write music now.

 

 

I am often asked why I choose to spend the majority of my time in Mexico City. What was originally a decision to to be closer to creating with Hernan Hecht (drums) and Aaron Cruz (bass) soon became a full embrace of the energy, vibrancy, and possibility that I found in the city. In music, there is the omnipresent sense, a bit altruistic but not naive, that the truth is important, and worth striving for. Living in Mexico City, I have found a way to reconnect to this idea of our common fight being more important than our individual gains. It is a personal and emotive culture that I fell in love with.
 I hope this video illuminates in a small way the infectious and energetic nature of Mexico City, the hope in celebration of the unique individual, and the personal nature of communication I have found living in Mexico. At best, some misconceptions may be challenged. I am very grateful to be a part of what is happening in Mexico City, grateful for the love I have been show by fellow artists there, and encouraged that the city's best days are to come.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yg1EVOvrRl4&feature=youtu.be

I am often asked why I choose to spend the majority of my time in Mexico City. What was originally a decision to to be closer to creating with Hernan Hecht (drums) and Aaron Cruz (bass) soon became a full embrace of the energy, vibrancy, and possibility that I found in the city. In music, there is the omnipresent sense, a bit altruistic but not naive, that the truth is important, and worth striving for. Living in Mexico City, I have found a way to reconnect to this idea of our common fight being more important than our individual gains. It is a personal and emotive culture that I fell in love with. 

I hope this video illuminates in a small way the infectious and energetic nature of Mexico City, the hope in celebration of the unique individual, and the personal nature of communication I have found living in Mexico. At best, some misconceptions may be challenged. I am very grateful to be a part of what is happening in Mexico City, grateful for the love I have been show by fellow artists there, and encouraged that the city's best days are to come.

 

 

 

A good one.

My artistic, maybe even my personal, aesthetic had me stitched into the music of John Lurie the first time I heard his compositions on record. The celebration of the idea. The joy in imagination. But serious, measured, and often biting. Close to a bunch of things I cannot, or do not care, to be. Love in darkness. The acknowledgement that illusion permeates art and we are responsible to rebel against it intelligently. To question and act with care, craft, and commitment.  That's where I hear Mr. Lurie's music to be. Someone else may take it an entirely different way. But there is no lying there. Some pain maybe, but no lying. And no nostalgia. A voice for the moment he was, and is, creating in.

 

I feel John Lurie's music because it felt like me when not much else did. When I was plagued by doubt because I couldn't do much of anything the way anyone else did it -  play jazz jazz, burn through Parker tunes, feel honest while chunking power chords, or feel comfortable in the time constraints (whether long or short) of the commercial song as we currently celebrate it.  I'm now able to consider my inability to assimilate to anywhere fully a gift, on my good days, though I still struggle with who I am not. I am also not John Lurie. It took me a while to stop trying to write anything as good as him.

 

There is something very personal to me in his music. The music understands me. I bet his parents, bandmates, lovers, friends didn't love everything he wrote. I bet that hurt. They maybe even made the occasional suggestion or comment he found offensive. I bet people called it weird. Some stupid. Some probably used the "well he can't really play" line. All that. The jocks thought he was eccentric and faggy. The jazzers mocked the rock. The intellectuals found him too playful. 

 

It doenst matter. Didn't matter to me when I got to love the music. That noise was organized for people like me. And everyone else. 

 

 

I don't presume to know anything about Mr. Lurie's personals life. I can presume from his output he is relentless in his commitment to discovery. I can also observe he rebels against the obvious. Against what he's done. What people expect. That I love. He trusts his audience. He leaves something to us. It doesn't need to be obvious nor purposefully obtuse. Thats the art of John Lurie and why I love him. I don't know him, but I love him. 

 

I was in a hotel room in Nyack, Ny, the town where Steven Bernstein lives, but we were just passing through on a tour in the northeast. It was our first run out there, so by tour I mean driving around in a van playing to mostly empty bars. I remember though, I had messaged John a number of times to express respect. I am weary of idolatry or even adoration really,  but I had reached out in hopes of talking. About nothing specifically. Just feeling a conversation happen. Expressing support. One thing I have learned in performing with musicians and artists I admire, and did as I grew up, is that none of us are that different than any other. We all like to interact if its honest, loving, and respectful.

 

I was in the hotel bed in the Super 8. A non smoking room for smokers. And I was on facebook an began talking to Mr. Lurie. I hope he doesn't mind me writing this. It is truly out of respect, and in aims of inspiring.  So we were talking, and John was in Portland I think. He was very warm and we talked about the musicians that had come through his bands, and how they had touched my life. Billy Martin, Bernstein, Anton Fier.

 

I gave him my phone number if he ever wanted to talk. Within 30 seconds my phone rang. I knew his voice. I feel heavy hearted and tear swollen writing this. It was a very special moment. A real man that had been adored, and surely the converse, by me and many. That I had spent days listening to. I never thought I could make music like him, or anything like that. But he called me. And we talked for maybe 3 minutes. It was brief. I didn't really breathe during the conversation. I've never had that happen to me. 

Sure, its cute. But that doesnt invalidate it. Happy shaking down the world. Be the mule. #ArtLife

 

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-7552/the-best-pep-talk-youll-get-all-day-video.html

I have to be careful not to get angry. Non-constructive anger. Jaded, cynical.

I chose to follow my desire to make art. No one is getting rich doing it. Nor the attention they often desire. I don't deserve anything. Thats the first thing to remember. Im fortunate to even consider holding a guitar much less playing one in front of people. Beyond that, playing music I made up. Thats quite wonderful. The more attention you get, the more you realize it doesn't matter. Music still matters. Even when no one is there to listen to it. Sometimes thats the most liberating of experiences. You are beholden to no one. I would like to operate like that.

 

But it is emotional. It is a very close to the heart career. And people don't care about that. Im not sure they should. But what we create is fragile, and us. We are vulnerable.

 

One of the ways we shade this vulnerability is to create personas of stoicism, or anger, or condescension. The truth is none of us really know what we are doing. We believe in what we have chosen to do. We get behind it.

 

So is it constructive, fair even, to say Rob Thomas sucks? I don't know. Maybe if I am saying we are selling ourselves short in allowing that to be our popular music. I think that is a valid point. But Rob Thomas the person, he could e a really decent guy. Maybe even amazing. (That sounds like one of his song titles "Maybe even amazing"). 

 

Anyway, my dilemma, constantly, is - What is subjective versus objective quality? What is fair for me to say in regards to the art of others as I hope they have a certain reaction to art of my own? You can read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and there is a strong argument there for the case of subjective quality, but it doesn't seem to have assimilated itself into our common conscious. 

 

Do I just pretend the stuff that I find non-substantive, or just not engaging, or lazy, do I pretend that doesn't exist? No. I have to learn from it and allow it to strengthen my own conviction.

 

Do I tell people what I don't like? I think that is only constructive if I am also telling them what I like. That seems fair. And not out of fear, nor hate (the latter a result of the former). 

 

I can't get so caught up in the music game that I forget about life, and forget about what I feel. Life, emotion, all of it, is the reason I play music that could perhaps be considered worthwhile, and the best of all cases, lasting.

 

So - I don't like the music that is on the CD's that have the name Rob Thomas on them, what I have heard. From what I have heard, I can make a reasonable assumption regarding that which I have not.

    I absolutely love listening to James Blood Ulmer, and Curtis Mayfield . I also like the movie Rainman. 

This is what they play when you are dis-embarking an an Aeromexico flight.

Make no mistake, it was focus grouped and selected with care.

 

 

 

My thought upon hearing is, does anyone actually like this?

 

The answer is generally, eh, no , not really, I mean whatever. Its fine, nice maybe.

 

And thats why its played. Its just fine. Int non-intrusive. It almost doesn't exist. Certianly not on any conscious level. 

That attitude is destroying us.

 

I do not intend to personally attack nor denigrate this singer nor his team of producers and writers. But something must be said. 

 

We cannot accept what is merely the least offensive as our entertainment or art. It says a lot about us. We are given the grayest, most predictable, least engaging art in the popular arena. It is safe and not threatening.

 

People retort, what do you want them to play on the plane? Zorn's Nosferatu? Derek Bailey?… Well that would be awesome, for me, but I am not that selfish.

 

How about something that sounds like a human being made it?

A sentiment that a human being truly has?

A story of interest?

 

Something non-opaque, non-specific for its lack of consideration, and pseudo-emotive is not getting us anywhere.

 

The Beatles. Sure, Thats easy. But even that is too threatening for them. They did acid for a while there. They choose a faceless LA studio track obliquely talking about love in a way that is sentimental and nostalgic, but not at all meaningful. How about Prince? Phish? Brad Mehldau? Bill Frisell? Soul Rebels Brass? Neil Young? Bill Withers?… I'm trying to be broad, and somewhat safe, here, but there are many many many, countless, wonderful artists that would help us feel a bit more human. Life with vibrancy. A bit of engagement. Now we've just got noise.

 

Im not asking for "radical" here, just actual music. That is actually somebody. Maybe we will be engaged. Maybe we will take notice of what we hear. Maybe not. But it will save me from feeling offended. Honestly, it is offensive what we are fed. Awake.

 

 Someone with some identity please. Just someone that is someone and being that someone. We feel like no one because we don't allow ourselves to be anyone. We accept the malaise. Enough.

 

So Im in the airport waiting for my ride, where I will go home, turn on Miles Live at the Isle of Wight, maybe some Mexican folk songs I have been studying, and bang on the keyboard until something sounds new and interesting. Then Im sending what I come up with to Aeromexico. They won't listen it. You gotta pay for that. Maybe a smaller line, like Aeromar. They'd play it for a modest sum.

 

Or, best yet, I live the wonderful live I am fortunate to, make my music, and talk to you about the things that are suffocating us. You and I can live at peace. Doing what we do. And we leave behind our little legacy of one in 8 billion as a voice that spoke truth. What else do you got?

I've spent what feels like much of January in Mexico City. Its a great city for me to be writing in, constantly fascinating, everything moving forward. I'm also fortunate to have been embraced by some incredible musicians and friends here. It was all love from the beginning.

A few months ago I asked a great guitarist based here in the city, Alex Otaola, if he wanted to do some improvisation shows. He did. We did one at this small arts club called Foro 81, where a lot of incredible things happen. It was part of a festival called Arts Futura, appropriately.

We talked about doing something further, and opened for illyB and Wil Bades - Billy Martin.  And now we've got a record we're working on together. Part of the commitment I made when we started working with Royal Potato Family, aside from putting out three records in a year, was to release a record of takes on folkloric material each year. Until I die. Just kidding. Anyway, for now.

So Alex and I talked about something where we took folk songs from each side of the US/MX border and arranged them a bit, learning a bit about each other and our cultures in the process.

It has been working. I'm working on these songs, and approaching them with respect but also imagination. I love this song Huapangero

 

And one of the US side of the b

 

We hung and talked today and it went well. Tried not too play too much, to let what is gonna happen between us happen on tape. So its quite a bit different from 20th Century Folk Selections in that way. Friday A Love Electric plays The Naked Beat at Zinco in the Centro Historico and up to the US for a couple months on the cold road. Much love

I spent a week in Florida just after new years playing some trio shows. Chris Bates and I shared a hotel room and talked a lot. It was quite beautiful. We spend time on shows, in vans, but the duo approach, as in music, often is the most unarming, connective, and ultimately most substantive. 

I lament often, as does any musician I know, the state of our modern arts, moreover a reflection of our culture and desired intellect. But, there is hope. I receive it from sharing with Chris, and other friends, artists or not, that there are exceptionally dedicated people with vision and a commitment to beauty, regardless of how difficult it is.

 

In the interest of turning the usual lament on its spine.

 

What is good about music right now

 

- The art world has lost shed borders. Everything is world music. Jazz is dead, so is rock, and metal, and tango. Anything that you someone thinks SHOULD be played/sound a certain way is over. The marketplace has such an immediate reaction, it renders any classification moot. We go everywhere. Thats why music must exist, why it will be smarter and more progressive than us. 

 

- Musicians have more facility than ever before. Understanding of western harmony and rhythm is so thoroughly investigated and deconceptualized - the academization of the arts - that the only logical next step is challenging, if not abandoning it. Institutionalize something and watch it be destroyed. Hold it harder and watch it dissolve. Conviction as to should in the arts has never worked. Errors are progress in the artistic world. That I love.

 

- Money has disappeared. It makes it tough, but maybe we can all realize the only thing worth doing is our own. There is no making it anymore. Ask 80 percent of the American Idols, if you can remember their names. Or ask The Black Keys, who sound like a shadow of themselves after being swallowed by the homogenization machine. They made it only as far as to a place where they could no longer sound themselves.

 

- People CAN hear whatever they want when they want it. It takes personal initiative, but the opportunity to discover new artists, musics, and pieces, along with familiarizing oneself with art history (see video on EWE drumming) has never been greater.

 

- Fame by song is over. Bands pass. No one remembers. The vain have short lived monetary success and adoration that only does a service to the performer and art in that it exposes them for what they are not, artists. Artists have careers. Treacherous and manic ones, but they last.

 

- There is so much jealousy and envy that it has to fall under its own weight. A peaceful and reasoned voice, one only to inspire, has never been in higher demand, whether we know it yet or not.

 

- MTV is sans M,  and with it lasting star adoration on a widespread scale is over. The person on stage is one of us. Is us. Return to humanity.

 

- Jewels, cars, big houses and talking about them did not make anyone happy. That shit is over. We are beginning to see it. It was never art, we get it now. Sonny Rollins lives happy, in his skin. Hey Sonny!

 

- Entertainment, due to over saturation, passes quick. Substance, statement, a concept of one's own, if heard, carries more weight and gives us a lasting relationship with the artist, and the artist the chance, and support, to evolve, as we humans do when left to our nature. .... thats a run on

 

- I get to write this. You get to read it. Others do the same. Thats our best chance, and how we return to the celebration of the humane. Capitalism has inspired a competitive, focus-grouped entertainment industry that creates need for what it wants to sell. It tells you what you want. It doesn't feel right. We don't ned it . Be the mule, drag them with you. Life as art, art in life. 

 

#ArtLife

 

 

Big Big open world

 

Im writing from the green room of this club in Boca Raton, Florida called the Funky biscuit. Its a very nice club for where we are at, holds maybe 200 fine people, great sound, clean, nice people. We were talking after the show tonight, which I felt musically was quite good. Not completely overwhelming, transcending, but it was good and I liked playing. We discovered some new approaches to tunes we will probably forget. Then it will be nice to discover others.

  But we were tailing and its late, like 2 a.m., and just kind of running through what happened, how people reacted. And its easy to remember the few old couples that left during Where's her Money From over the folks who stayed and clapped all night. So I recalled something Steven Bernstein told me when we had played this restaurant gig in Los Caob.s We were playing Monk tunes and some arrangements I had, but there was a volume and "out-ness" ceiling. Lots of right notes, which I don't always feel right and honest about playing, but that is another story.

We finished the gig, and it was on the beach, and the waves were happening, and we played like 3 sets. And there was greath and space and humility in the music. And no attempt to corral it as your own. We were fine with it existing, and there was no pressure to have a certain amount of people sign your email list or buy your CD or say they loved your song. We just got to play with each other. I didn't realize how special that was at the time, often the case, until Bernstein, always positive in word and deed, said "man, when I play a gig like that, the waves crashing and we are playing Monk, I say fuck it, that was the best gig I've ever played in my life." 

I considered it a gross overstatement at the time, but I know what he means know. Tomorrow's gig can be the net best gig I ever play in my life if I allow it to be that way. It all has to do with expectations. If expectations and this egoic desire to own can subside, its just the people you play with and music. And every night it is better. That is the approach.

 

Thanks for reading .... another show here in Florida and to Mexico City for some Naked Beat debuts, filmings, and recordings happening.

I didn't make much money, but we made a lot of art. I love that. Very grateful, humbled, excited for the next. We played in NYC last night opening for Cyro Baptista. A nice way to end. January I promise to get back to practicing every day, morning, discipline, commit, onwards.

 

To the photos.

 

PUEBLA, MX - Int Jazz Festival - May 2012 w/ Cyro Baptista - this was part of a two week run we did with Cyro. His energy and love is contagious, towards audience and band.

Cyro has a wrestler mask t-shirt he bought on tour. It requires lacing.

Soundcheck Aguascalientes, MX - La Feria de San Marcos - Casa de Cultura w/ A Love Electric

I listened to this interview with John Coltrane the other day. I was struck by the apparently common assessment in the press of Coltrane's day, acknowledged by the interviewer here,  that Coltrane's music sounded too angry, or angrier, or angry at all. That sounds absurd given what has happened in music between he and now. How do the Melvins measure on the sound-perceived-as-anger scale? I find the Melvins beautiful. Coltrane too.

 

 

 

Coltrane handles the question of the press's apparently common assertion wisely, largely ignoring it, thus paying it the amount of attention it deserves, but the broader implications I began thinking about were in regards to what anger is, and what its place in art is. How is anger rightly, and constructively expressed? Can that happen at all?  Is there beauty in anger?

 

I set out to write something cohesive and academic, deriving a conclusion, but I've edited this a few times, rewritten, and it seems most appropriate, and honest, as it is here - a series of thoughts on the subject drawn from personal experience. Perhaps someone more linear in thought can make a summation and conclusion. 

 

Dictionary definitions point to anger as "an emotion related to one's psychological interpretation of having been offended, wronged or denied and a tendency to react through retaliation."  Anger is classified as a retaliatory response. It is self defense, but does it truly defend us from anything? Is it constructive? In terms of expression, I certainly can be angry at times. I don't know if that is helpful. I do know I feel better, and more connected to where I have been, and where anyone listening has been, after performing. Is it valid?  It is to me, not in the sense that I am allotted some special entitlement of anger wanking and someone should care, but in that I believe there is something worth sharing in my experience, both for myself and anyone who may want to listen, otherwise I would be doing something else. Speaking through art and word is my means of communicating. I grew up listening to, and being inspired by, people who spoke honestly and directly. To veil anger is a disservice to progress, and the suffocation of expressing anger leads only to further suffering, and most dangerously, the birth of hate, which is dangerous and destructive.

 

There is an implication in the assertion that if something is "angry" that it is irrational and impulsive. That is a fear based teaching that holds no truth. Anger is natural, how we express it, or if we choose to, is the issue. We can turn our anger to hate, or turn it love. Art is love ("Love may be understood as part of the survival instinct - a function to keep human beings together against menaces and to facilitate the continuation of the species"), it is sharing. Violence is hate, it is death.

 

Anger is not hate. Hate is completely destructive. Anger can be helpful. How? We share it, it is an emotion, a reaction to what is happening to us. What is happening to us involves a combination of situation out of our control and situation as we experience it, that is, how we create our situation. Some would argue our situation is entirely of our own making in the sense that we an choose to respond to our situation in any manner of ways, thus arguing peace and serenity can be achieved solely within ourselves, by ourselves. To me, while not without a degree of merit, this is a passive and ultimately sterile response. 

 

Martin Luther King Jr. got angry. He didn't hate, but he did get angry. And he expressed it, constructively. And we all got better for it. 

 

We need not only be expressing anger as a response to what has happened to us personally. We are free to be affected, comment, and create on happenings in a broader society. Our voices are valid. We forget this.

 

We all feel we have been wronged at some points in our lives. The degrees to which we have been wronged certainly vary, but we all seem to react in either healthy or unhealthy ways regardless of the severity of the suffering we experience that comes from outside our control. For example, a Holocaust survivor can respond in a way such as Elie Wiesel, writing illuminating books, masterpieces, while a disgruntled employer who feels he has been wrongly fired (certainly a far less degree of suffering) can take a gun and start shooting his co-workers and bosses. 

 

 

Acknowledging our own anger, and that of others, and truly considering it, is uncomfortable. Where does it originate from, and how can we learn from it? These are important and relevant questions today more so than ever, as we have descended into a violently corrupt, violently angry series of acts that gain global attention. Surely we are more exposed to anger than before, but we are less comfortable than ever expressing it. We don't truly say much. Turn on the radio. Watch the TV. Listen to our politicians. Everyone is too afraid to make much of a statement at all. Angry is cast as crazy. Not right. We have reason to be upset. Everyone, and anyone. I find hope in music that expresses real human situation. All of it, the entire experience. I want more than diversion from my art, I want introspection and illumination.

 

The arts are made for us to share with each other, our experience, not only for personal growth by means of expression, but by offering our most bare selves to others so that we may find and celebrate commonality and difference. The arts are made to consider and to teach. They are born from the human necessity to express, from anger to joy.

 

BEAUTY

 

What is beauty? It is relative. Its based on our perception. There is no defining it. Dictionary definitions point to a "perceptual experience of pleasure or satisfaction".  Words like pretty get associated with Beauty. It could just as easily be ugly. Harmony is mentioned. That seems more fitting. Something in harmony with the truth. That seems beautiful to me.

 

So, in anger as beauty, we are left with a response to a perceived wrongdoing that could be perceived to contain elements of pleasure or satisfaction.

 

I like my definition better, which would require a verb that doesn't exist yet. (Aside - read the piece in the current The New Yorker  on the creation of the Ithkuil language) . What I am left with is "responding to a wrongdoing with action in harmony with truth". I hear this in Coltrane's music, or Monk's, slave song, Woody Guthrie, William Burroughs, Hunter Thompson, Martin Luther King Jr, many addicts in recovery, the words spoken in meaningful conversation with friends.

 

There is no word for anger and beauty in art, it requires feeling, and consideration. There is no solution. Thats why art matters, and when it matters, and how it is divine. 

The state of the Arts major media discourse is disappointing, if not pathetic. I was in Buenos Aires about a month ago. Forward thinking city, music happening, from people fusing Tango with traditional folkloric music to a thriving, if impoverished, jazz community. A friend remarked "people know there is no chance of making any real money from playing music, so they just play whatever they want." Out of the clubs, I found this to be true. Then I went to lunch at a local cafe and was reading the major newspaper there, the name I can't recall. I like to read the Arts section of the New York Times, about the only arts section left that passes as a full arts section, so figured I would give this Buenos Aires section a look. The cover, and first two pages, were dedicated to an English boy band. They weren't on tour or coming to town or anything, but this story was there. I can't recall the name of the band, but its the five cute kids from the UK that everyone seems to know. A piece on each one's likes and dislikes, hair styles.

A week later I was in Mexico City. My favorite city in the world. Its constantly fascinating, its people are personal and emotive. The arts are potent and discovering there. More people are moving in, more artists coming through to perform. There is a real sense of urgency to the music and film that is happening, a bareness to it that I find exciting. It can feel like like New York without the need for nostalgia.

The front page of the Arts section was the same story on the same band from the UK. Clearly they had hired an effective, and far reaching publicist. Such is taste-making in the globalized era. Its shoved everywhere, and we are supposed to care. Enough of us obviously are sold to keep it happening. Its miraculous really, from Buenos Aires to Mexico City to Kansas City, the story of these 5 boys in make up is apparently the one that represents the state of the arts, even for a day. Our information, and our exposure, is bought. Now is an especially fine time to consider this as "best of" lists emerge, from everywhere, as the year turns gone. Again, the uniformity in these lists is striking. The only ones I have read were in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, a list of lists published by local writers. Aside from one person, the lists of nearly everyone were the numbers 1 through 10 with a name attached to them, shaken about. Of all the music that has come out of that city. I was proud and happy to see some friends mentioned on one list, though this was quickly and clearly cast as the "jazz" list.

Everyone in the arts hates year end lists until they start making them I think, but my point is not that a year end list is destructive, but rather the inability for any of these "critics" to choose is. Are we really all that alike? Maybe so, maybe thats why I don't live there. I dont think so. There is a fear in being seen as "different", unless that difference is sold as its own identity and has an element of hip to it, but truly difference lies only in being honest to ourselves. People have capitalized on this fear or exclusion, difference, by finding a way to make money exploiting it. "If you are part of us, and like what we like, you get to make lists and write for people and come backstage at our shows and you will have an identity in your community." Social success. Bah! Greater significance, and consideration, in the world of critique is lost in these cases. You can find them on BLOGS, thoughtful people with nothing to lose and no money to gain, but many of us still write aching, needing, to be part of something; some gated community we hope one day we can enter and hold our chins high above the folks desperate for the acceptance we take pride in not giving them.

If you work at a major newspaper, there are few exceptions, 80 plus percent of what is chosen as worthy of writing on is paid for to be viewed that way. A critic is but a puppet in this instance. Then there is the way we view genre. It also gives us identity. We "love" jazz, or rock, or "indie", or jambands, so we buy all that stuff, only that stuff, and think we are connected to it in a way that offers us meaningful relationships and belonging. A "scene" coalesces around it, instilled for the benefit of a few at the top who make money through the consolidation of humans and our tastes. What we enjoy is all so relative, its a mockery not only our own capacity as thoughtful and considering people, but of what art can be when regarded and respected for its own statement to have such uniformity in these lists.

The way we attach our identity to genre is an affront on possibility. It is art suffocating. Look at the lists. Sometimes rock and rap co-exist. Thats about it. Its not worth time detailing the many other approaches to sound that exist, their validity, and the fact that in time, much of what pop culture highlights will be mocked. Greater significance in the professional world of the critique has been lost. Money and insecurity have combined to leave the common paid critic a windbag. If these people all truly enjoy all the same stuff so much, and really see it as so clearly better than everything else that has come out in such a uniform manner, I am sorry for them. They will lose their voice and then flail to find significance in the changed world, the people's world, where we talk about things as they are. Here are 11 records I enjoyed, and continue to, that came out this year, among many. I just like them. This is the list I submitted to PopMatters when asked to be part of their year end lists. I don't know if it was or will be published. In no specific order. David Byrne and St. Vincent "Love This GIant" Ron Miles, Bill Frisell, Brian Blade "Quiver" Melvins Lite "Freak Puke" Jazz Free (A Connective Improvisation) - Nels Cline, Henry Kasier, et all Templars in Sacred Blood (John Zorn, Trevor Dunn, John Medeski, Mike Patton, Joey Baron) Jack White "Blunderbuss" Eddie Vedder and Natalie Maines "Golden State (Live)" - Single Bill Laswell "Mean of Deliverance" Brad Mehldau Trio "Ode" Matt Chamberlain "Company 23" Medeski, Martin and wood "Free Magic"

 

We got a new record coming out - And Art n Video n Photo n all. This was taken by Mario Rodriguez.

Our society here in the USA feels dangerously culturally grey. On a local and micro level, vibrant actions, statements, artistic moments take place, but on the macro level, we're foolish, shortsighted, and lacking inquisition. People need not protest, but be willing to speak truth at the risk of loss. What we think we have truly amounts to nothing if it is void of truth. Lies lose.

Mediocrity does not survive, it thrives in a money driven sales shove, but passes and is generally mocked. Never fails. The time it takes varies, but heart and direct expression consistently reveal themselves as truth.

Some examples below that met resistance. That resistance now seems pathetic. Look ahead, say your piece. Believe in it, because its yours. Some exceptional moments of humanity I regularly return to when seeking grounding, hope, and encouragement for committing only to truth.

 

This is about more than Woody Guthrie. Anyone we had e admired and loved, been inspired by.

Play New Shit - Where it Came From

 

When I was a kid I attended church irregularly, usually with my mother. It was more a function of tradition, as her parents took her to church, than of actual adherence to Catholic teachings. I liked it for a bit. I found power in the song, and the community when we were living in the city in Minneapolis. I stopped going at a young age, maybe 13 or so, but I remember very well the songs from church and the power I often felt there. Once we moved to the suburbs and there was a social, dressed up and put your favorite make up on, the rich family gets the front row practice, I stopped going.

 

One time, near the end of my church going days, I was sent to something called Cotillion. Many of the Our Lady of Grace church families sent their kids there. That was the end for me. They taught young girls how to sit lady like, boys how to correctly court women and walk with their chests out, and a number of other horrible, fear based teachings I felt sick from. I told my mom after the first night I wouldn't be going back. Nonetheless, I am grateful I had this experience. In fact, Im grateful for pretty much all of everything at this point. It gives us the opportunity to have voice. 

 

Ironically, I think its the truth and depth I found in church song, and in exploring some gospel music, the songs of emancipation and longing born from African American experience, the lyrics often based in biblical teaching, that taught me enough to know what I saw in church was not truth. The adage of giving a person sufficient knowledge, inspiration for inquisition, for them to realize what you are selling them is bullshit. Teacher becomes its own enemy. 

 

I was not confirmed or anything of that sort, and I hated Sunday school because the teachers were generally quite transparent in their reluctance to consider. So I didn't go. I wanted to be around the people and the music. My mother did not make me. She was very supportive in things like this, if not perhaps a bit worried. Thats probably still the story, she is a mother. But what I learned in church, and in singing and feeling, was that I felt, in my heart, that the institution it had become, the social game, the money, would probably repulse the writers of the principles upon which the church was founded. Love, empathy, community. So I don't have any interest in being part of that. Church at this point is sitting for me across a table from a friend and sharing, or listening to someone I love, someone I can fall in love with, play their music, make their art. 

 

But the power of community, of song, and of stating something serious, of gratitude, an emotion that requires you to be exposed and honest, I think I took that from that time, and then following gospel song, blues, the history of the south. That always fascinated me. Great song comes from very exceptional places and people. Its natural and speaks to the heart. You can feel it even if you don't like it. You can feel the person inside the art. I love that. I worry we are losing it.

 

I was watching a YouTube video the other day of a band I happened upon through a publication that gave A Love Electric some press. They were from Brooklyn. They had an American flag, the old school one with the 13 stars, draped over the organ and a bottle of whiskey on top in their stage setup. The guitarist was wearing suspenders and one of them had a Duane Allman look going. The music started, and they played what they were trying to look like. And they looked like what they were trying to play. This is judgmental of me, I know, and Im ok with it in this case, its helpful to me to know what I disagree with. There was absolutely nothing there. Any serious person would agree after a listen or look. It was void of substance. They had been packaged. They were gonna be the roots rock guys, satisfy all the cliches, and give us just what we expect despite the fact we don't really need it, want it, nor does it satisfy in any meaningful nor lasting way. 

 

So that would be the bad news. More and more this is the way bands approach their craft. They need to adhere to a stereotype, not create one. 

 

Be bold. Actually we don't even need to set out to be bold, if we are honest, the weight of the statement takes care of itself. Be an artist in whatever you do. Listen to where what we love came from. 

 

So what can we do new now. People talk about that often. I saw an interview with the man often cited as the Director of Institutionalized Jazz, Wynton Marsalis (a fine trumpeter, his respect for the tradition is admirable, and our respect for the music's significance and legacy also important) where he stated "you really think you are gonna play some hew shit? There's only twelve notes"…. commenting that it has all indeed been played. Wrong Wynton. The miracle of music is that these twelve notes, when played with sincerity and respect for one's own persona and vision, sound an infinite amount of different ways. The combinations can be calculated mathematically to a finite number. The way the notes are expressed can never be quantified. Shake the cynicism, sorry academia and industry has done that to some people. There is an incomprehensible amount of new. A ton. A ton of beauty. You know it, we all know it. It just requires doing. Having the confidence to speak like yourself.

 

Pull from where no one else does, and where no one else can, inside yourself. 

 

Here's a photo from a short tour we just did opening for Billy Martin and Wil Blades. I did not know Wil prior, he's a really wonderful person.

Billy has become a friend and always been an inspiration. The more time I spend with him the more I realize he is all artists. Its complete commitment. He means it and he's done his own thing whether it was adored or not. I feel like he's just getting started. Going to do my best to stay close.

 

We are done a dis-service by the amount of anger and resentment in our world. I do not want to be a piece of perpetuating it. So how do I stop the cyclical nature of want and envy? 

 

How do I avoid impulsive-me-love and find the substantive love of self that holds significance and allows me to be better to, and for, others. 

 

The only way I know how, that I feel truly bettered from, is by speaking about it. With others. By writing about it, here. By singing about it. Sometimes it sounds angry, but its not, I am not angry at anyone. I want to acknowledge what I have experienced, some of it we all have. Its emotion, and we are able to share in it. That is positive, its growth, its betterment, and its taking personal responsibility for doing our part to encourage and inspire. Tell the whole story, there's a lot there for everyone. Don't hide. You die with that stuff. Actually it kills us, as is said, and moreover, it owns you until you allow it to be part of a world that is bigger than the individual. Open and speak, consider. 

 

Move beyond thinking about others in any way other than from the standpoint of empathy. That is dramatic and difficult. I cannot do it yet, but I want to, and i believe we can.

 

Turn off hate. Be liberal with your word if you believe it. People can decide.

 

There is no difference in anger and hate. Yours is just as petty as theirs. Transcend it, take that energy and inspire. Take care of yourself by allowing yourself to be yourself. Get on with it. 

 

Been working on listening, actively, for something, sometimes with the intention of documenting what I am experiencing.

This morning I listened to the Ornette song below, and wrote. Started typing with he first note and ended with the last. Did not edit

 

 

Stomp, say something

Dead eye world

Bite the tongue

Of the violent whistle Morning on the Mexico City wind sound

Pointing and yelling, bleeding and crying in silence

Insides playing a poor game of telephone to the outsides

 

What you want you are telling me in all the wrong ways

You are not telling me what you want

You are telling me something else

And hoping I can understand it as what you want

But that, that you want but can't say, fear lip, it is not what you need

You have those confused

What you need is love

To operate with love

But people either operate guided by this

Or guided by want

Want is money

Short paint

Love is harder

 

I have wanted to say it all, at the same time

Without learning to say one thing

Love first, talk later

And Im only writing to myself

What I want You to understand Is there

But I can't really tell you

That I want to be loved

But what I need Is to love

And Im drawn in circles, made of the wheel

Tell me what you hate about that

Or don't, I will make it up for you

And call it truth, to myself

And let it break me quietly

To the shockingly simple end

People talk about active listening from time to time. I wish we talked about it, and practiced it, more often. What we want out of music varies at times, but I worry at times my ability to truly engage and listen is waning. Its important I am able to hear what is happening without getting in the way of it with chatter, judgement, and learned segmentation skills. Let the body react, but be there for the music, for the sound and interact with it, to feel the rewards of being present for something, someone, someones. There is substance to what will happen to us when we listen. Not just in music. The more I can create silence in myself, the more open I am to hearing what is happening. Get quiet and hear. 

 

For me, it generally requires paying attention to my breath for a few seconds. Consciously breathing, and closing my eyes. I'm very easily distracted. Linear thought is not my nature. So, I get quiet, focus on breath, and listen. After a certain period of time the music becomes an interactive experience. There is room to live in it, and search through what is happening, how the instruments are interacting, what emotions are being expressed by listening. There is expression in hearing, it is not merely receiving. You are part of the conversation now. 

 

I imagine visual artists feel much the same. We are constantly walking by artistic works, some are meant to brand, some to sell, and some, the artistic for art's sake, are there just to express and interact with the viewer. But it takes a true viewer. Someone to consider, consciously, what they are feeling. It does not require intellectualizing, though that may be part of it. It requires exercising our wonder. Expressing some humanity towards each other by considering what another of us has created. This is a humble act. We are all just as good as each other. We do not need to let fear dictate our reaction, if we don't like it, we don't, and we can turn it off. Can we disagree with it? Im not sure. Someone made it. They felt it necessary. Maybe they know something I do not, or maybe they are delusional. Does it matter?

 

I'm of the opinion that if we were all creating, we would all be better listeners. But our natural artist is suffocated. We want to be right more than we want to know things, sometimes. Let it go. There is too much beauty to experience. Be the mule, go further, ask more, believe harder. Take us with you.

 

Some things I've been listening to recently - Im not suggesting anyone's tastes be as dark or what could be considered as avant, you could find an incredible experience listing to a Ray Charles, Foo Fighters, Beatles, or Rufus Wainwright song, but for the sake of sharing - 

I had the day today to ride the subway around, write and walk downtown. I went to the museum of Intolerance and Tolerance. It is a beautifully done series of exhibits in a beautiful building that houses presentations on some of the most horrid moments of recent human history. All is presented in the name of educating and inspiring tolerance. That word in Spanish also translates roughly to mean acceptance and even implies a bit of love, not simply "allowing something to exist".

I am not a historian, nor do I feel qualified to comment on the weight of the exhibits, spanning from the Holocaust to Darfur, but I can say I am glad the museum exists, and would recommend it to anyone visiting Mexico City. I did take some pictures and wrote some thoughts, fragments. I believe we are getting better, which is not good enough. 

Below are a few photos of some of the more optimistic moments that I left with. These thoughts born from a sad and often death ridden place, which provides them more substance, and makes the study of the least of humanity all the more essential to our understanding of hope and possibility. 

 

An appropriate translation of this would be "To you, I am another. In another, there are no limitations, only possibilities"

 

"They who save one life are saving the world in its entirety" - Agreed. The act means hope. And without hope, nothing means anything.

Tonight I was hanging out with a student, a friend really, that I began teaching about 6 years ago. We don't really have lessons anymore, but we keep in touch irregularly and trade music, improvise when I am around, and find ways to challenge each other. He's a natural creator, since he was 12 or something when we started. He was curious to take things and place them in his own way, or ask a question in regards to something we hadn't gotten to. Learning a major scale, he would ask what happens if you change a note, if is it still the major scale. It was hard for me to say, "we're learning the major scale right now, we will deal with that later". I love that inquisitive nature, and Im that way as well. To a fault, as it can leave things half done or half studied, but I'll take it, its where Im able to feel truly artistic. I just need an editor friend. And someone I am willing to listen to when they tell me to be patient.

So my friend and I were hanging out and we improvised for like 40 minus or so. Its very natural and there is no competition, nothing to prove, so you can find something worth exploring. There also is no audience, so my shame cycle is turned off. Music for music's sake. Afterwards we were talking about new bands we listen to,, or old bands we listen to in new ways. Its encouraging, fascinating, all sorts of things, for me to hear how someone thats 17 is finding new music, what they are looking for out of music and its role in their lives. I often relate to young people, or old people on the fringe, as they are seeking. They want new, and they are unafraid of it and by it. They are away much of what they were told or taught has been complete bullshit and unimportant, they are naturally resistant to compliance, and this guides their taste in music. My student would be I guess a special case, but nonetheless, he's got friends, and they hang and listen and do all the digging and non-conforming Im still doing. 

I want to be startled. Thats I need from music right now. That changes, but for now, some artists and pieces Ive been checking out. YMy students can be the same, show me some new shit! They don't want to learn how to sound like someone else.... yet. 

The artists that Im increasingly finding the most interesting right now, and really worthwhile, as Im seeking something beyond enjoyment, are guided by the rebellious spirit of creativity that many now call "self sabotage" as it is non-marketable. Challenging is of course relative, but Im talking about people whose artistic drive was to discover something completely new. I find inspiration in that. Its complete commitment to artistry. 

whether the music below speaks to us individually or not, the art of these people, and their vision, and willingness to get behind it with word and action, is something Id argue we are all better for. 

Luigi Russolo (April 30, 1885 February 4, 1947) was an Italian Futurist painter and composer, and the author of the manifesto The Art of Noises (1913). He is often regarded as one of the first noise music experimental composers with his performances of "noise concerts" in 1913-14 and then again after World War I, notably in Paris in 1921.He is also one of the first theorists of electronic music.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luigi_Russolo


       http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/17/how-to-live-without-irony/

 

I find this (link above) to be a really important piece of writing, especially for those of us in the arts (minus the shot at the trombone. The trombone is a wonderful instrument that speaks just as fine as any of the others).

 

I don't think we are doing our job as artists, collectively. We are too divisive and too little of ourselves. Its not everyone, but its pervasive. Wampole writes a perfect piece, reasoned and calm, on the increasing commonality of the celebration of the ironic, its silliness, and what it means to be a people that are constantly in defense of ourselves by refusing to admit that we are, indeed, defending ourselves. 

 

Our retreat into the life of irony is a product of heartbreak. My generation grew up watching people get what they wanted fast, big things being built seemingly with ease, fame on the television, and being told we not only could, but would, be whatever we wanted to be. How much work, decency, and humanity it was gong to take was conveniently omitted. That kind of information does not sell as well. Reality. 

 

A good friend reminded me a few days ago, in talking music, a recording we had made, that all we have our is our integrity. And this is art. It can be fun, but in the illuminating manner. It is serious, and it is expression, and it deserves respect. We don't get that respect often from audiences, so we coil up and mock ourselves without outwardly acknowledging we are doing so, again, all in defense of our shattered egos. Its not always our fault, until we keep doing it and celebrating it. 

 

Irony, born from fear and resentment, most often born out of disappointment, or fear thereof, does its best to make integrity moot. But irony loses. We still feel what is real. There is an objective difference in quality and meaning between the entertainingly ironic and the human. I do not mean this as a passively aggressive statement towards anyone, or thing. While certainly it is a critique, its aims are for people to take their own music, and each other's music, a bit more seriously. Respect it and give to it.

 

Music gave me something for free when I was a kid, and continues to do so as an adult, and consistently saves my life. I owe it. And I owe the music of others, their art, Im talking about art, respect. Make your statement, and its valid. Know it and own it.

 

Quality is derived from humanity, a feeling of connection and of wonder (not wonder in the sense of idolatry, wonder in the sense of inspired fascination to be oneself).  Irony defends us from having to take ourselves, and others, seriously. It deprives us of each others' inherent humanity, and spins upon itself until we are embittered, naive, and ultimately blind to interaction as a participant in the arts. So don't do it. Believe your stuff, because you should, and if its not where you want it to be, get it there.

 

We are not going to get to wherever we thought we should be. That place does not exist. We are going to end up where we should be, if we work, get honest, listen, and stop falling in love with distraction. Be the Mule. We want to hear you.

I felt happy this morning, and I didn't need anything to do it.

Last night we were playing a song, with this young piano player, younger than me, I seem to always be playing with older players, but we were playing this song, in duo, to no one really, and a string broke at this crescendo of energy. Nothing was getting louder. I wasn't even touching the strings. I was listening to them resonate. And force willed one broke. If you have ever watched something be born, it was that.

Every morning here I wake up to someone in the street yelling. Colchones, microondas, refrigadores, they want things you have, so then they can go sell them to other people. A man drives a car around town. It has a speaker on top, the voice of a young girl repeats the items they are interested in. I imagine that girl. She should get royalties. Mattress pieces, or a leftover microwave.

The trash man collects trash by telling you he is outside waiting to collect trash. He has a collection of orange, dented but sturdy, cans, metal, on a wheelbarrow of sorts. He just hangs out and walks down the street, not particularly in a hurry nor particularly lazy.

This is all between the hours of about 730 and 10 a.m., when I am generally waking up. I step out of bed and onto one of the piles of charts I have on my floor. I have them separated unneatly but in a way that allows me to find what I need whie also being surprised by what may be next to it. They end up moving from pile to pile after gigs, classes, sessions, this tune fits with that band. They all fit everywhere. I love them. They are the first word in the greatest conversation ever made.

ELLIOTT SMITH, IN UTERO, ENO - MINNESOTA PUBLIC RADIO

Posted on October 22, 2012 with 0 comments

Here's an interview I did with David Cazares that makes better sense of what we are up to this week in music.

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/state-of-the-arts/archive/2012/10/electric-jazz-guitarist-todd-clouser-to-present-three-imaginative-shows.shtml

 

Video and charts will be posted after shows. There is a lot to get to, back to the pencil.

Posted on February 11, 2012

"20th Century Folk Selections" is meant to transcend, and challenge our concept of divisions within music. In creating these divisions, we've created a nonsensical distance between each other as human beings. The music we share and love, the very existence of music, is of far greater importance than any one person's, or group of people's perception of how sound should be organized.

With a bit of willingness to listen and consider as the only prerequisite, this is a record meant to celebrate the believer. Its a record of hope. 

I

 Last year when constantly on tour we would go in and have sessions with A Love Electric whenever in MX City at a studio called Sala de Audio. I had a ton of music I wanted to record, and had thought about a double record. The concept was records that commented on each other, a record of traditional music, later I called it folk music as more tunes on the record came to be selected, and a record of original music that was the confluence of many of the folk concepts in music we've absorbed. The record evolved as we got further in, and we dedicated a full album to exploring re-arrangements, de-rrangement of folk tunes, from Malvina Reynolds, traditional tunes sung by the Carter Family, Big Mama Thornton, Son House. All music thats been very close to me from a young age, and where I still go to have the blood pulled places its fallen to still. I grew up with Blind Willie Mctell to Curtis mayfield being played in my house.

It was a very organic and encouraging process in the studio, many of my bandmates, being from Argentina, Mexico, and Illinois (Meckler shot) never having heard these tunes, meaning there were no preconceptions about how the songs "should" sound. We were able to create around the core of the tune, generally just the melody, an entirely new piece. You can hear this in songs like "Little Boxes" and "Pay Me My Money Down". Others, a live performance of the song with adjustments to the harmony and melody seemed a more appropriate way to go about presentation, examples being "All Apologies" and "Gratitude".

The arrangements were all done with the "folk" concept" in mind; the harmony, color, tone of the tracks reflecting the lyrical content, largely where the song's meaning can be found. The lyrics now being absent, the arranging also became an exercise in discovering how I attach certain emotions from the spoken language to music. "Little Boxes" is a protest tune, the arrangement is aggressive from the start but also adventurous in having an odd timed section that perhaps offers an alternative to the satirical commentary in the song's verses. "Pay Me My Money Down" reflects the sentiment in the title in its brash arrangement, "Heroin", so on.

II 

Folk is simply the music of the people to me, its no more complex than that. Its not a genre, and unlike jazz or metal or classical, is not marked by a time period in which it had its mightiest weight in society, it was and is always there, as long as we were and are. Minstrel songs were folk music, the blues was folk music, big band swing was folk music in the 20's. Grunge - folk.

Music is a reflection of our human experience, and the times in which it is most poignant are often the times during which a given society, now our global society, is undergoing profound change, challenge, or growth. We emote in reaction to our surroundings and how they affect us, and music is how some of us best tell stories, or emote. Thats a people thing, not a music thing, and thats where the music is found - In humanity -  not in academia nor a genre of an artistic medium that has more to do with a personal identity than acceptance of our human condition. Its in the folks.


So thats folk music to me, the music that comes from the depth of human the human experience and our reaction, commentary on it. In the music's creation, knowingly or not, there is a commentary on the human condition at hand. Its incredibly personal, yet universally understood.

The tunes on "20th Century Folk Selections" are only eclectic, or perhaps seemingly random, if we continue the narrow, sales driven construct, of the modern genre and sub-genre. What genres really are are adjectives describing the sound you are going to hear, and only relevant in that they are learned to have an identity; that identity is not inherent. For example, what does "rock and roll" mean? Nothing at all, except that we have learned, at a very young age what "rock and roll" sounds like. But its completely arbitrary the name.

 

"20th Century Folk Selections" is meant to transcend, and challenge our concepts of divisions within music. In creating these divisions, we've created a nonsensical distance between each other as human beings. The music we share and love, the very existence of music, is of far greater importance than any one person's, or group of people's perception of how sound should be organized.

I hope that by playing what could controversially be accepted as folk music, or songs of the people, in a manner that includes influences from various approaches to sound, a wide harmonic palette, improvisation and melody, form that is presented in a way common to jazz music, adventurous rhythmic concepts; that the result is something genuinely human, can be an emotional experience in empathy, and perhaps offers a commentary on where we are.

 

 

 

Its instrumental, people place all kinds of tags, and confusing in between tags on it, but I believe we made a record of real substance, there's a joy in it, even at the dimmest of moments, being that we are all together in this. With a bit of willingness to listen and consider as the only prerequisite, this is a record meant to celebrate the believer. Its a record of hope. 

Thanks for your support and time coming by, much love

Todd

Video up next on arranging Little Boxes and how it all goes down

Hear "Gratitude" from the record here

http://m.soundcloud.com/todd-clouser/07-gratitude

We can become so concerned with ourselves we lose any ability to consider the idea that maybe our convictions are at the very least worthy of question, and in some cases, wrong. The ego rules in modern capitalist culture, we like to win and have demonstrated exceptional talent for deluding ourselves into believing no one was treated unfairly or unjustly by our actions, in fact we often somehow reason we were helping them, and that we are in fact brilliant, often misunderstood voices. Our emotional survival instinct creates the ego to shelter us from what can be a difficult onslaught of reality as to our place in things, so impulsive reaction becomes the norm, self defense, posturing, etc.

The finest manner to combat the ego and its cunning attempts to govern our actions and desires is the practice of gratitude for not only what we have to enjoy, but gratitude for the accomplishments of others. Creations of others deserve our gratitude. Simple gratitude, ahhhh

Here are some musical goods I am grateful to have the chance to spend some time with these holidays

Most gorgeous tune... to me... Mingus' - to Lester Young - "Goddbye Pork Pie Hat"

Admittedly, sadly, I only heard Eyedea posthumously, this on air freestyle is modern bebop

 

 

 

Grateful these guys worked it hard. Makes the heart shake, puts the hips on the make.

Performance art meets Bob Dylan's "Love Sick", raw lyrics, brilliant band, passion dance

Remember seeing this on SNL as a kid for the first time.... and my angst had a voice.

Lacking time and vocabulary to describe the 2 plus week run we just did with Cyro Baptista, so here it is in photos. More soon, enjoying times of growth and making a lot of new music. We had a really excellent rehearsal yesterday after tour. Optimism.

 

Photos by Mario Rodriguez, Sharon Cohen, Justin Bias

554387_432276323452968_100000118131008_1743077_5311154_n.jpg_resized 485705_10100806031608000_908384_58065363_107665960_n.jpg_resized 522990_10100829289753490_908384_58090209_1135762093_n.jpg_resized 319873_3735274377380_1141705975_3532209_1895919358_n.jpg_resized DSC_0075.jpg_resized Photo by Sharon Cohen 563200_10100836766579870_908384_58134226_174137107_n.jpg_resized 485808_10100848761866220_908384_58188044_766438432_n.jpg_resized http://www.toddclouser.com/images/392494_10100839082663420_908384_58144397_1418326103_n_resized.jpg 579410_10100809714821810_908384_58075386_272015227_n.jpg_resized 577455_10100847518463010_1385227823_n.jpg_resized 485808_10100848761866220_908384_58188044_766438432_n.jpg_resized

 529246_10150688022412481_584482480_9803390_1014128175_a.jpg522054_3793087142663_1141705975_3554923_1714926246_n.jpg_resized Photo by Mario Rodriguez 578543_3704838140189_1252570025_4734444_928754481_n.jpg_resized

Queretaro - April 20, 2012

Im writing from a small internet cafe in Queretaro, a really beautiful and endearing city a couple hours northwest of Mexico City. We are maybe a third of the way through this tour that is, I mean this in terms of venues, scheduling, work - quite epic. A Love Electic nd Cyro Baptista and its really just incredible. We played something like 275 shows over the past 14 months, and it has brought us to a place where we are functioning so well as friends and artists. Every night I feel my ceiling of possibility being transcended. Its just completely beautiful. And we are sharing what we do with so many people here in Mexico, the people here... find another adjective... wonderful.

Each night we humble our individual selves will for the greater good of the music, of what can be reached as a group. The listener is invited, we are not there to show what we can do, if we are good, to yell to the listener something about ourselves, or how we should be received. WE have the choice to be completely preoccupied with our individual selves or commit to something that promises growth and possibility. Its a conversation we are all part of and it means more than music, an instrument, anything to me.

Its important for me to be inspired, in the sense of continuos wonder. Ive played without it, and the heart is absent, its flat and I begin to feel like I should be somewhere being something I am not.

Here's some recent objects of inspiration that set me right, humble me, back to the place where we are all certain  our knowledge is limited to ourselves, and curiosity, imagination guide.

 

        

The story of Mickey Murray, dubbed years back as the next James Brown, and more specifically the censoring of this song due to its unabashed commentary on issues of race relations, is worth looking into. Music, power.

     

Billy Martin turned me onto the study, or simple joy of bird calls. Using these conversations, whether tonally, rhythmically, or sthe use of whatever emotion/color/word they bring to mind can offer a unique starting point for a tune, melody, thought, poem, whatever.

 

     

A dreamer of a musical statement.

 

  

The father, mother of them all. The first three sentences, and you could stop there. Its all there, beyond black and white. I return to this often.

Back in Minneapolis after a west coast and midwest short run, part of this long never ending run. Don't have a spare waking hour, but sitting down with the music of Cyro Baptista today for our upcoming Mexico tour together.

Here's some tunes we'll be doing ....

 

 

Thanks for com in by, more soon.

Abrazos

I've been badly neglecting this BLOG. We're in Truckee, California, a small town just north of Lake Tahoe. It snowed about 10 inches here today.

I found this song, thanks to John Lurie. Its completely beautiful, and the title is poetry.

 

    

I wrote this in the afternoon - I'm ill-equipped for the outdoors on days like this, and have been wanting to spend more time writing.

If the snow is a dancer

I am the blind one

Eyes rolled softly to the back of the Earth

 

Its been piling and falling 

under and into

its own weight

for hours, since the morning came in wind

 

God howl, exhale from

the top of the moon

 

through all the light

passing through all the light

that happened before we see it

 

and weaving new lines

on our faces

as we clench our arms

arms of each other

lovers, children

walking to our hiding homes, 

buried under the weather

 

All our love piling

the awe

and falling under itself

to where no one remembers

and tomorrow, God, or something, winks

and we awake too early

to a humbled sun

 

 

--------------------------

We're off to San Francisco tomorrow. Its been another encouraging couple of months out playing. Thank you for your support and coming by.

 

Todd

This was written recently for some folks interested in how this all happened, our band, getting out, living in Mexico, so on. Thought it may be of interest to post here.

 

A Love Electric began as a reaction to my experience in the traditional music industry. After living and studying in Boston for three years, I moved back to Minneapolis and began performing often in mostly rock clubs in the Twin Cites, eventually through the greater Midwest, working in studios, and producing records of my own as well as a series of records that came out on Liquid8, the one that got the most notoriety was a Tribute to the Beastie Boys and a band we had with my brother on drums that ended up being called 4 Letter Man. I haven't heard those in years. By the time I was 22 I had performed on a number of records and released a few of my own out of my basement, but was largely unhappy playing clubs and with the music we were making, or at least the way we were going about it. I grew cynical fast, life felt it had reached a point where I was either going to be this for many years to come, or I could run at something completely different. 

Uptown Bar 2005

Rusty Trombones at the Uptown, Minneapolis, MN 2005

 

    I never wanted to play music to be popular again, never wanted to be told what music was supposed to sound like, be part of any scene or specific genre clique, or put quantity of production over the sincerity of it. So I left everything, sold a lot of stuff on Ebay, gave my family and jobs a couple weeks notice that I was heading out, and packed my car with mostly musical gear, some clothes, and Wes, my dog. We drove from Minneapolis to the tip of the Baja Peninsula, where I had vacationed with family and made some relationships. The drive was magic, I recall listening to Bill Frisell's "Blues Dream", lots of Bob Dylan Bootleg series stuff, some Electric Miles, and staring off to nothing, feeling human and inspired again. We stopped in towns along the way, Vegas was terrible with a dog, Tahoe was amazing with him, ran around the Rockies where I used to vacation as a kid, it was mid- May at this time.

VAIL area dog park , May 2006 (or 7?)

 

    We arrived to Los Cabos and I found a job teaching music at a local international school. The joy of being around the kids and their fascination with what I was bringing them set me right in many ways. I rediscovered some altruism in music. I remember playing "Blue Suede Shoes" the first day, I had arrived not knowing I was going to be teaching, or that I had the job, so took my acoustic guitar from my car and improvised how to teach elementary music. The school didn't care about books or following some set course of learning, so my job was to inspire, and it was cyclical.

 

 

 

 

     After a year of teaching I began playing out again, jazz, groove, and improv gigs. Whatever I felt like playing, at a great local jazz club called Havana's, since departed. The owner s gave me a chance to come in and do whatever I felt, and I fell flat a lot, lots of mistakes, lots of trying to rediscover a voice, which is useless, and eventually some sort of voice emerging from all that. Meanwhile I was still teaching at school and had loads of private students. The Los Cabos area is a small town, and it was an exciting time a few years ago before the decline in economy, travel, and health and safety scares. Many families have since moved on. 

     

tracking "Baja on summer school break with Schutte, Linz, Benny Weinbeck

 

I began spending more time playing, at least a few nights a week, and hanging with musicians from Argentina, Mexico, and the US quite often. I was becoming a performing musician again, but felt liberated from the pressure to conform to a certain style, and the darkness you can find in some music circles was to a far lesser degree than that of some of the bigger cities Ive hung and lived in. 

At Havana's with Jack Sonni and my student Eliot on drums  2008

 

Summers in Los Cabos are extremely hot, I don't mind it, but the rest of the population down there seems to, choosing to vacate the area for much of July, August,and September. Timing worked out as kids were out of school then. I decided to spend some time in New York playing and studying in the summer of 2009 and everything shifted. I met Steven Bernstein, trumpeter, arranger, encourager. I took a workshop from Steven and admired the way he pulled power from simplicity in music, and there was the blues, soul, jazz, rock, all in there. I sheepishly asked him if he would be interested in coming down to Mexico to do a tour. He said yes. I never really expected it to happen until I got an email a month or so later, and I booked a ten day tour through the Baja and a portion of the Mexican mainland. I had gone from Berklee shed-machine to rock writer to school teacher to performing not-jazz jazz musician in a few years. But there was little question after that tour that this is what I was going to do. Playing with Steven, though I had my insecurities and bumps, gave me the confidence to get back to writing and playing and living free of any of the pressures I would put on myself as far as what is good, what it should sound like, achieving some impossible level of greatness and popularity. IT didn't matter, I loved making music again. Thats all it was, making music. 

First Bernstein tour, Havana's, Los Cabos - with Frankie Mares and Samo Gonzalez

 

  Art District, San Jose del Cabo - first Bernstein Tour

 

 So I spent the next month or two writing a record Id hoped I could get Steven on, but needed to get out and tour the tunes, see what worked. Still in Los Cabos, I asked some friends in Guadalajara who I should look up in Mexico to begin this thing, which I was uncertain would turn into anything lasting, but for now, a two week tour of little clubs or wherever we could set up would be cool. A friend mentioned an Argentine drummer, Hernan Hecht, this was  couple years ago, but I can now say that was a gift that gratitude will never fully serve. Hernan is an incredible musician, producer, businessman, and many other things, and has become a close friend and partner in creativity in A Love Electric. We got out and played the short tour, and it was just alright, but there was enough there in the tunes that at least Hernan stuck around, and I asked him about adding a couple guys he plays with frequently, Aaron Cruz, a bassist from Mexico City, and Mark Aanderud, a pianist who at the time was in between New York, Mexico City, and where he now resides, in Prague.  I wrote a ton over the next few months and got into the studio in Minneapolis with some guys I've played with for years there, and one of the all-time great bassists I've ever known, Gordy Johnson. Bernstein and I met in the studio and he put his parts down. It all happened fast. That was the first A Love Electric record, I liked it more than I had liked anything Id done previously, so I blind sent it out to some record labels, venues, so on. Ropeadope Records sent me an email saying "fucking love it, lets talk future release". I never considered myself worthy of that kind of attention from a label I grew up buying record after record from. Yes, times have changed, but that shit not only excited, it also gave me a sense of responsibility to the music I was creating I think. It had to be real now, because thats what I want people to see from me. Thats what I really care about. Yes its subjective, but people can feel it when its there.

   

    The cats in Guadalajara          and an early early US tour, early 2011, feels longer ago


 Then summer 2010, the four of us - Mark, Aaron, Hernan, myself, all residing or hailing from different countries managed to carve out a month where we could get together, get on the road, and hit it. The energy from the first gig, I don't recall if we ever rehearsed, was outrageous. Just the other day Aaron told me, "when I came to this band, I didn't know how much I needed it". Thats how it felt, a few seconds in we could all look at each other and say this is going to be good. The music ran to places it hadn't with anyone else, and the dialog with the audience reflected it. Writing about those first shows, Adam Meckler had also come down from Minneapolis to join us on trumpet, I want to play now. Things, for me, became completely transcendent when we made music, and we didn't care in the least whether it was rock or jazz or funk or whatever. It was music, and we were there to express, the collective nature of the expression coming about in a completely natural manner. Egos were abandoned, music was served, and people felt it. I remember feeling like that in my teens playing, but not with much frequency since, its almost every night with A Love Electric now.

An early "Curtis" at Zinco - remember feeling we'd conquered all when we could finally get booked there

 

    I remember Bernstein came back down more recently, spring of 2011, just after Ropeadope released our first record, and played with Mark, Aaron and Hernan and commented that "these are the guys, they know what you're doing with your music". So we recorded records together in Mexico City. As with the shows, the recordings happened fast, we got along great, no vibing, and we recorded some outrageous amount of tunes in 2 separate 2 and 3 day sessions at Sala De Audio in Mexico City. I cut about half of what we recorded, some at various points of completion, but still ended with two plus records that we all felt good about. One, a project I've wanted to do for some time, is de-rrangements of folk music, while also serving as a commentary on what exactly folk music is, or can be. The other is a record of all original tunes I've written and grew with the band over 8 months of touring. Everything happened really organically, after our first sessions in MX City, I went out to NYC for some shows and recording and met up with Steven Bernstein to lay down some trumpet on a number of tracks that I felt called specifically for his unique voice, and also got to hang a bit with Cyro Baptista, who played on both records as well. 

 

   got to Europe 

 

   The life of the band, our music, and our relationships with each other, continue to evolve, but everything is positive right now. We've all made enough time for this to be our primary project in terms of dates on the road. When I can't get the guys up from Mexico, Ive been spending more and more time in New York City playing with a bunch of different cats who continue to make me better. Each record is part of a larger body of work I hope someday I can make sense of, but it is honest. There's no hiding my deficiencies, passions, what has informed our music, my writing. Its all in there, and Ive learned to leave it like that. Thats what makes this band unique to me, we are ruthlessly honest and passionate. The experience of playing in A Love Electric, and making music with these guys is abstract, transcendent, and empowering. All that matters has already been accomplished, now we just get to continue to play with the music in a way that inspires us, let it grow as we do. Its going to be fun for me.

"20th Century Folk Selections" is meant to transcend, and challenge our concept of divisions within music. In creating these divisions, we've created a nonsensical distance between each other as human beings. The music we share and love, the very existence of music, is of far greater importance than any one person's, or group of people's perception of how sound should be organized.

With a bit of willingness to listen and consider as the only prerequisite, this is a record meant to celebrate the believer. Its a record of hope. 

I

 Last year when constantly on tour we would go in and have sessions with A Love Electric whenever in MX City at a studio called Sala de Audio. I had a ton of music I wanted to record, and had thought about a double record. The concept was records that commented on each other, a record of traditional music, later I called it folk music as more tunes on the record came to be selected, and a record of original music that was the confluence of many of the folk concepts in music we've absorbed. The record evolved as we got further in, and we dedicated a full album to exploring re-arrangements, de-rrangement of folk tunes, from Malvina Reynolds, traditional tunes sung by the Carter Family, Big Mama Thornton, Son House. All music thats been very close to me from a young age, and where I still go to have the blood pulled places its fallen to still. I grew up with Blind Willie Mctell to Curtis mayfield being played in my house.

It was a very organic and encouraging process in the studio, many of my bandmates, being from Argentina, Mexico, and Illinois (Meckler shot) never having heard these tunes, meaning there were no preconceptions about how the songs "should" sound. We were able to create around the core of the tune, generally just the melody, an entirely new piece. You can hear this in songs like "Little Boxes" and "Pay Me My Money Down". Others, a live performance of the song with adjustments to the harmony and melody seemed a more appropriate way to go about presentation, examples being "All Apologies" and "Gratitude".

The arrangements were all done with the "folk" concept" in mind; the harmony, color, tone of the tracks reflecting the lyrical content, largely where the song's meaning can be found. The lyrics now being absent, the arranging also became an exercise in discovering how I attach certain emotions from the spoken language to music. "Little Boxes" is a protest tune, the arrangement is aggressive from the start but also adventurous in having an odd timed section that perhaps offers an alternative to the satirical commentary in the song's verses. "Pay Me My Money Down" reflects the sentiment in the title in its brash arrangement, "Heroin", so on.

II

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Folk is simply the music of the people to me, its no more complex than that. Its not a genre, and unlike jazz or metal or classical, is not marked by a time period in which it had its mightiest weight in society, it was and is always there, as long as we were and are. Minstrel songs were folk music, the blues was folk music, big band swing was folk music in the 20's. Grunge - folk.

Music is a reflection of our human experience, and the times in which it is most poignant are often the times during which a given society, now our global society, is undergoing profound change, challenge, or growth. We emote in reaction to our surroundings and how they affect us, and music is how some of us best tell stories, or emote. Thats a people thing, not a music thing, and thats where the music is found - In humanity -  not in academia nor a genre of an artistic medium that has more to do with a personal identity than acceptance of our human condition. Its in the folks.

A Pete Seeger take on Little Boxes

So thats folk music to me, the music that comes from the depth of human the human experience and our reaction, commentary on it. In the music's creation, knowingly or not, there is a commentary on the human condition at hand. Its incredibly personal, yet universally understood.

The tunes on "20th Century Folk Selections" are only eclectic, or perhaps seemingly random, if we continue the narrow, sales driven construct, of the modern genre and sub-genre. What genres really are are adjectives describing the sound you are going to hear, and only relevant in that they are learned to have an identity; that identity is not inherent. For example, what does "rock and roll" mean? Nothing at all, except that we have learned, at a very young age what "rock and roll" sounds like. But its completely arbitrary the name.

 

 

"20th Century Folk Selections" is meant to transcend, and challenge our concepts of divisions within music. In creating these divisions, we've created a nonsensical distance between each other as human beings. The music we share and love, the very existence of music, is of far greater importance than any one person's, or group of people's perception of how sound should be organized.

I hope that by playing what could controversially be accepted as folk music, or songs of the people, in a manner that includes influences from various approaches to sound, a wide harmonic palette, improvisation and melody, form that is presented in a way common to jazz music, adventurous rhythmic concepts; that the result is something genuinely human, can be an emotional experience in empathy, and perhaps offers a commentary on where we are.

Its instrumental, people place all kinds of tags, and confusing in between tags on it, but I believe we made a record of real substance, there's a joy in it, even at the dimmest of moments, being that we are all together in this. With a bit of willingness to listen and consider as the only prerequisite, this is a record meant to celebrate the believer. Its a record of hope. 

Thanks for your support and time coming by, much love

Todd

Video up next on arranging Little Boxes and how it all goes down

Hear "Gratitude" from the record here

http://m.soundcloud.com/todd-clouser/07-gratitude

Back in Mexico City after a really great weekend playing trio in the Baja with Seba Dimarco on bass and Sergio Hesting on drums. Tonight we're at Film Club in MX City, where our first gig was that anybody showed up to, a little over a year ago. The same friends still come, it overflows now. I'll be forever grateful to Film Club and everyone who hangs there. I took the metro, the MX City subway this morning and made the following observations :

Things that make the MX City Metro superior to other mass transit Ive spent time on
1 - Stops are marked by symbols as well as words (ex. this morning I am taking apple past Moses to flowers)
2 - There are no stoplights (Boston T Green line)
3 - You can buy action figures and small candies on your ride
4 - It is clean and relatively Tag-free and the equivalent of about 25 cents 1 way
5 - The doors stay open for only a short period of time, riding requires commitment

Then there were these toys being sold on the wall outside

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I'm madly addicted to playing music for people, and myself, and feel hopeless without it, and hopelessly inspired with it. I've been really living inside the whole process recently, the results being a more stable and optimistic existence. Lots of writing, practicing, and as close to I can get as a routine, more a disciplined approach to tending to music every day. Writing every morning, never reading it back, is a great exercise, the right brain comes alive for the day. Maintenance practice and working on a tune a week, getting inside it. And constantly creating, it comes more easily when the other pieces are functioning. I couldn't fall asleep last night as ideas came, they had to be written down and remembered. So many great tunes get lost. 

And reading draws something out - this is the roof of our apartment building, and a fine place to read - recently on Monk's biography again, a book called The Four Agreements, and Burroughs' Naked Lunch, again

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Ahh yea and check out our band! Here's a couple videos - "Little Boxes" is on our record coming Feb 14 - The next will come mid- June and feature "This Means Love" 

 

 

I took a class from Marc Ribot once. I love most everything about his playing. What I took above all from the 90 minutes or so was his adamance on avoiding cliche, predictability, repetition in improvisation. There are countless guitar cliches, musical cliches beyond that, and we run the risk of just reciting licks or patterns that are comfortable to us if we don't carefully seek new approaches to creating a solo, tune, or whatever it is we're doing. Assuming we don't want to sound the same each night.

One way I've been trying to assure Im discovering each time we improvise recently is to consider tunes I know the lyrics to from my youth, using their rhythmic phrasing as the basis for what I'm playing. For example, I can still recite Method Man's "Tical" record more or less front to back from my days as a teen. Same goes for the first Wu-Tang Clan record, some ODB, and Bob Dylan. Some masters of phrasing.

  So I'll take "Bring the Pain", and if Im not particularly inspired by anything else thats happening in the tune, use its rhythmic phrasing as the beginning of my solo, whatever notes I want to put to "I came to bring the pain, hardcore from the brain, lets go inside my astrobrain, find out my mentals, based on instrumentals, check it, HEY, so I can write monumentals" (Im not sure those are the words correctly but thats what I remember them as). Each syllable gets a note and the accents fall as Method Man dictated.  The phrasing is really interesting, and you can take just those few lines and then began to deviate from that, still taking a purely rhythmic approach and letting the pitches fall where they may. Thinking rhythmically over tonally can often bring out a more cohesive piece, solo, and hookup with the band. Something always seems to develop, start leaving rests, answering your own lines, repeating, omitting, playing with the tools people talk about in composition, and spontaneous composition.

 

 

Its much like a jazz musician would use a bop head as the basis for a solo, but thats the music that I hear more naturally, the hip hop and rock stuff, than the Charlie Parker tunes. Though learning Parker heads is something I've found really beneficial, and fun after the initial frustration.

Others I've used include Shimmy Shimmy Ya by ODB, "Don't Think Twice Its Alright" by Dylan, Dylan's poem to Woody Guthrie, and then Monk melodies. Monk melodies I love and absorb quickly, and are rich in rhythmic content as well, listen to what he does with them. But I think whatever you have internalized, memorized and can emote from, play with, as naturally as possible, a unique piece of you comes out, and cliche is more easily avoided. We are closer to being our own. 

An aside - I think this is why I can still go to Dylan shows and think its completely badass while all my friends complain they can't tell what song he's singing, he's singing them all different, and his voice sucks. He's up there playing his voice like a great improviser. Playing with the accents, the phrasing. Im listening to Its Alright Ma finishing this post and must go be creative, this is the feeling we live for.

Following up on the last blog, we're also often asked by musicians how we get gigs, to travel to play, and so on. There is no secret besides persistence and skin thats willing to thicken, and making friends with people. Hang with folks, its fun, you learn, and shows come out of it. 

Here's the info we've been sending out to get on some festivals this April for a tour with A Love Electric and Cyro Baptista

Coming April, 2012, legendary percussionist Cyro Baptista (Sting, John Zorn, Yo-Yo Ma) and Neo jazz-rock burners A Love Electric will combine for a tour of Mexico that will serve as part philanthropy, part record release, and part creation. For two weeks, A Love Electric (Clouser, Hecht, Cruz, Aanderud, Allen) and Cyro will be traveling through the country, providing workshops to area youth, performing in some of Mexico's most celebrated venues, and recording two pieces of music highlighting their interaction with children of all socioeconomic backgrounds and experience as "musicians". Each performance will feature a set of music from Cyro (40 min), a set of A Love Electric (60 min), and culminate in a collaborative performance (20 min). Workshops will take place throughout the tour at selected schools, culture and charity centers, and feature an engaging, inclusive, and spirited opportunity for all children to discover and develop their own voice through sound.  The tour confronts the traditional model of bands out on the road, leaving behind a "perform and sell" approach for an interactive experience for communities as well as the musicians, all working towards the creation of the final product of new music.

 

Since arriving in the U.S. in 1980 from his native country Brazil, Cyro Baptista has emerged as one of the premier percussionists in the United States and abroad. Coinciding with the rise in the public’s interest of world music, Cyro has managed to record and tour with some of music’s most popular names. His mastery of Brazilian percussion and the many instruments he creates himself, have catapulted him into world renown.

With his own project, the percussion and dance ensemble known as 'Beat the Donkey' Cyro gives free reign to his imagination, mixing his tremendous musical skills, his natural humor and theatrical ways with instruments from Brazil, Middle East, Indonesia, Africa and US.

Cyro's credits read like a "Who’s Who" of modern music. He toured extensively with Yo-Yo Ma's Brazil Project, Trey Anastasio's Band (of Phish), John Zorn's Electric Masada, Herbie Hancock's Grammy award winning "Gershwin’s World" , Sting and Paul Simon's "Rhythm of the Saints". (www.cyrobaptista.com)

 

 

   A Love Electric embodies the international spirit of the creative music scene, featuring players from Mexico, the United States, and Argentina, touring throughout Latin America, the USA, and Europe. The band, led by guitarist Todd Clouser, and their unique brand of groove inflected jazz rock have risen from a small club act to being signed by renowned Ropeadope Records and on to Royal Potato Family Records (New York, NY) in just one year. The A Love Electric concert is a must see for any fan of creative music, the 5 musicians creating an energy explorative and driving. The infectious live show has taken A Love Electric to stages from Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz, CA to Jazz Dock in Prague, Czech Republic to Rockwood Music Hall in New York City. 

 

 

 

 

" A blistering neo-jazz rock quintet" - The Prague Post, June 15 2011 

 

 "An impressive modern outfit that takes its cues from fuzzed-out acid rock and laid-back vintage funk." - TIME OUT NYC, Dec 2011

 

 Todd Clouser en LA RAZON - http://www.razon.com.mx/spip.php?article74563

 

"(Cyro is)…The man the stars call when they want that otherworldly flavor in the mix…" - Time Out New York

It happens often in interviews we are asked whether we are a jazz band or not. The easy and unoffending answer is no, though Im told otherwise often. I usually go on a long winded detour of speech about being influenced by a variety of genres of music, its up to the listener, background as a performer, and settling back at the beginning of the sentence fragments at I don't know.

I can pretend I don't care, my music is what it is and Im unaffected whether its taken or left, or how it is classified. That would be untrue. I care deeply about the music we create, music as an art form, its place in society, and how our music is received. How it is classified, I care less about, though amongst jazzers, the word "jazz" when classifying one's own music has become synonymous with "of quality" and "serious". There is a battle within then that I have, knowing that we are not a traditional, nor modern jazz group in the accepted sense, that is completely nonsensical when looked at from a distance, that tells me if we are not considered real jazz, we are worth less. The opposite could certainly be argued. 

The honest answer is absolutely not, and completely. We are not playing traditional jazz music, nor the kind that is taught in schools now - a phenomenon of just the last few decades - and many have, will and do, perhaps rightfully, state we are not jazz.  All this said, the music we make would not exist without the influence of jazz. We are using harmonies, song structures and melodic elements borrowed from the idiom juxtaposed against rock music, the rhythms I heard growing up - from 90's hip hop to Band of Gypsys, and whatever other abstract textures we feel fit. In the end, its an accurate reflection of who we are as players and who I am as a writer. I grew up as a middle class kid in Kansas City and Minneapolis, until my family profited from the Clinton-era economy. I got depressed and changed colleges. Lots of us did. I now reside in Mexico City. I don't really swing like the greatest have. Listen to Elvin Jones for that. What I do have is a wide palette of musical influences that I am increasingly growing comfortable with expressing, and seeing as valid. Jazz is not the most valid music, nothing is.

There is an argument that jazz's most relevant days have passed, much like the way people view classical music now. That Monk, Ellington, Bird, Armstrong, Ella, on and on could be held in an allegorical sense to Bach, Bethoven, Chopin, up to Stravinsky. I'm not sure whether that is true, that jazz has ceased to be relevant, but jazz culture seems to have had its finest days, go hang at the clubs in what is still jazz's epicenter, New York City. Its not the days of Monk at the Five Spot. The music was new, the culture was new, and the art instruction came from a legacy of folklore as opposed to a textbook.

Jazz is an institution at this point, deservedly so, one to be respected and admired. The brightest young jazz players have a mastery of their instrument and a large vocabulary in music that is inspiring.  Wynton, not quoting, referred to it as America's greatest export of the 20th century, maybe just in reference to the arts, I don't recall, but that would be hard to disagree with. People are playing traditional jazz everywhere now, Monk tunes are being performed a couple hours from the Mexico - Guatemala border. I was just there. Where we are now as a culture will greatly be defined by the arts we create and celebrate. The global reach of traditional jazz music and its influence on other styles of music seems to offer positive possibilities for the growth of the music we as humans create and celebrate. These are the positives I see in jazz, the respect I hold for it, and the gratitude I feel towards the creators of what has become a genre for their contribution to the evolution of music, the arts, and our way of life.

But it is the institutionalization of jazz, the attitude that there is a way it is played, that has come to bother and bore so many that live on the fringes of, or outside the idiom. If seen from the angle that jazz is played a certain way, and you do it right or wrong, we must admit that jazz's finest days are gone.  That we are recreating or imitating. I'm not sure music based in improvisation and using an extended vocabulary of musical concepts has passed, but the new music thats "jazz worthy" might just not be called jazz.

We've been playing music in some unique spots of the country of Mexico these couple weeks, which seems to serve us well. I've been writing every morning which is always positive and we're making music this week on the beach in the state of Oaxaca, a town called Puerto Escondido. Its tourist driven, more in the way that certain European towns are tourist driven, there are no resorts, large developments, or chain restaurants. Feels more personal. 

I was writing from the balcony of our bungalow style hotel this morning, its up about 30 yards from the ground, a tall flight of stairs that seems a sif it was built into the Earth, not in spite of it. While sitting there, a mother whale and a newborn calf passed heading south in the Pacific. The newborn was breeching, was about the size of a dolphin. It was very liberating to watch. 

Its interesting, for me, to consider how quickly the world is moving, and how the lone constant seems to be the power of nature. We are being left behind by the way the Earth truly functions, as much as we try to control, we further lose ourselves as being part of what is happening here. Of all the power we think we obtain through money, accomplishment, notoriety, its all lost, and transient. Often our reaction is anxiety, we are afraid we do not have control of what is happening, what will happen. Its all quite meaningless, in the end we have no power whatsoever aside from the power of our own reactions to what is taking place around us. Music is a good way for me to express my sentiments, consciously or otherwise, as to what is happening around me. 

But the power or control we lack doesn't have to be a source of anxiety. It can be completely freeing. We are guests here, we don't own it. And we are guests in MUSIC, we do not own it. We visit and interact with it, exchange ideas, shape each other in a small conversation, we eventually leave, and it lives on without us. 

The past 5 years or so in the Baja have been an incredible run. Being there has allowed me to grow musically at my own pace and without giving up on it all, moving into a hotel lobby, or growing so sick with doubt and cynicism that I couldn't function in the industry. I am hyper sensitive to these things, lots of things. I began to really play there, as a working musician. I got to town as a teacher disenchanted with music, tattered by carelessness, and was able to rediscover a sense of purpose and the discipline in practice and writing that I'd lost while playing in studios and clubs for a few years in Minneapolis. I quit music for about 6 months, but really couldn't, that doesn't work for me, or not playing music does not work for me. So one evening, nervous, I went to what used to be the jazz club in town, Havana's and started playing the simple standards I could remember from college on solo guitar, ended up playing some rock gigs with Jack Sonni and my own trios, was hired out for more jazz (wide definition), and writing all the while. Then in the summer of 2009 I got to meet Steven Bernstein. He changed my life, honestly. Having the chance to play with him, I realized I needed to get my shit together. We did a tour, it went well but I wasn't comfortable with where my playing was at, so I got back to shedding a good number of hours a day. I kept in touch with Steven and keep writing, playing out a lot in Los Cabos, a few shows on the mainland of Mexico, and up in Minneapolis. A year later I had a ton of writing I had done and we needed to make a record, or I needed to, and Bernstein was willing to do it. I was having a hard go at the time with my health and keeping things together. That first A Love Electric record I knew I had to be present for, be alive, coherent, at least marginally stable for. I managed to get it together for that. I got healthier with the help of friends and stayed that way, and passion continues to return, more revealed daily if I can nurture it. Around this time I also started to hang with some of the heavier players in the Baja, a drummer named Pedro Cervera, Roberto Blanco on piano, Nahuel Bailo as well. Each are great jazz players, and I would book trio gigs with them, learn, be humbled, and continue to practice. That much I'm still doing. Over the past year, we've lost some great players in the Baja, as there just isn't much left in terms of creative music opportunities. Its not all the fault of venues, there are less people around, money isscarcer, and artists get cut, and resented, first.

 

Some of my new neighbors doing their thing

 

 

 

Over the past few months, though we've more or less been on tour for a year, I've been making the move to Mexico City, though not really living much of anywhere. I've slept in the Newark, Madrid, and Mexico City airports, a number of loving friends homes and basements, and back at my parents house while not in the Baja at the apartment I've rented for the past few years. The constant change is entertaining and offers plenty to write about, but I need to have a home where friends and other musicians live and thrive. I've come to love it here in Mexico City, due in large part to our band being here, Aaron Cruz, Hernan Hecht, and my roommate Brian Allen. Really driven but loving guys that I adore playing music with. I need a new place to grow as a player and person. I rented a place that came about by chance in Portales Sur, a comfortable working class neighborhood home to many musicians. My apartment is just above Aaron's now, couldn't imagine having nicer neighbors. I got in town yesterday and knocked on his door to say hello and we ended up hanging for quite some time talking music, travel, amateur philosophy.
I hit up the supermarket for some rugs, a TV tray top use as a desk, some candles, and a couple lawn chairs. Its perfect. I spent the night up late in an attack of creativity, writing for hours, and woke up to practice which got back into writing. Its a fun time. Im mighty grateful for my time in the Baja, and look forward to going back frequently to play and see the cats, but this is the right spot for today.


Over the past few months, though we've more or less been on tour for a year, I've been making the move to Mexico City, though not really living much of anywhere. I've slept in the Newark, Madrid, and Mexico City airports, a number of loving friends homes and basements, and back at my parents house while not in the Baja at the apartment I've rented for the past few years. The constant change is entertaining and offers plenty to write about, but I need to have a home where friends and other musicians live and thrive. I've come to love it here in Mexico City, due in large part to our band being here, Aaron Cruz, Hernan Hecht, and my roommate Brian Allen. Really driven but loving guys that I adore playing music with. I need a new place to grow as a player and person. I rented a place that came about by chance in Portales Sur, a comfortable working class neighborhood home to many musicians. My apartment is just above Aaron's now, couldn't imagine having nicer neighbors. I got in town yesterday and knocked on his door to say hello and we ended up hanging for quite some time talking music, travel, amateur philosophy.

I left Aaron's and hit up the supermarket for some rugs, a TV tray top use as a desk, some candles, and a couple lawn chairs as the apartment came unfurnished. Its perfect. I spent last night up late in an attack of creativity, writing for hours, and woke up to practice which got back into writing. Its a fun time. Im mighty grateful for my time in the Baja, and look forward to going back frequently to play and see the cats, but this is the right spot for today.

Im writing from the airport in Los Cabos, where I just said goodbye to Anton Fier, an incredible drummer, please check him out. When I picture Anton, I want to hug him, make music with him, I feel very profoundly connected to him. I think its reciprocated, don't really know, not sure it matters. He inspires me with his presence and playing, his history, and his belief that music, in his words is "life and death."

 

We played three shows here in Los Cabos, the best being a short set at the City Plaza for our Arts Day Out festival. A really beautiful time where kids come and play tunes, meet each other, some interactive visual arts exhibits. I think its quite unique.We finished the night playing some of my new tunes, which I wanted to do on this little run, we had little to lose, and nothing is going to fall apart with Anton playing, so I played quite a few new songs for the first time, it felt really nice, though there is some work to be done.

Im working a record with Anton, a long term project that we'll have more about in the coming months. 

Heading to Mexico City today to be with our band, A Love Electric and get everything in place for the release of "20th Century Folk Selections", which will come out Feb 14th on Royal Potato Family Records, exactly a year after our debut on Ropeadope. I have not listened to the record for two months plus, was so involved in it for too long, its necessary to get away to find some perspective on it. So I'll do that tonight, get back into it. We've been playing the tunes live and they've been burning. 

More tomorrow as we head off to Chiapas. Sincere thanks for your kindness and support. 

Got to spend a few days in Minneapolis to spend Christmas days with my family. Lots of Hannukah cards were exchanged, gifts from years past regifted, and we had our first rehearsal for our hand carved flute symphony that Im guessing will make a lot of noise on the international creative music scene in the coming months..... mostly avant, but rooted in suburban ethnic-caucasian rhythms (timelessness). 

 

Twas fun to laugh a lot, and finally rest for a few days. Its been running since February now that we've been on some sort of tour, maybe a week off the road but still playing, so some time to get a bit of perspective on things seems needed. Need to hang, listen, write, not worry, play, not plan and be ready with energy and passion for tours to come, the cynicism gained over the past 8 months in the music industry dutifully scraped from thought. This month is full of music but Im not trying to tour manage n book and all while out playing, so its all in the noise. I love to when there's time to live in it. 

While the next few months will be consumed with our next A Love Electric Record, poster above, I just finished mixing a Monk record with Dean Magraw and Jay Epstein. Dean and Jay have been at the forefront of jazz, rock, and whatever in MN and beyond for decades and its truly an honor to have made this record with them, and they're both genuinely excited about what we got, I think. Jay sent me an email that could have made me cry was I not malaised and emotionless in the MN gray winter day I received it. Tremendous, in all capital letters with an exclamation point he wrote. This is not a man who regularly goes all capitals and exclaiming things on blogs, social networks, and so on, calm and cool cat. So it was an honor. Check out that trio below.

 

Thanks again for your support, see you out soon

Cold and concrete are a ruthless combination for the stability of my mental well-being. Oooo tough times in the north when it chills out. Sure Im not alone in that, but the inner cynic, a natural impulse I think many of us have towards self-pity, entitlement, reacting with anger and judgement, all swing into my mind and out of my mouth more often this time of year. Been spending a lot of time in the US, which has been really nice for the music, fortunate to continue to play with heroes of mine, from dudes I always looked up to in Minneapolis to buys I spent my teens going to see, Billy Martin, Cyro Baptista. And the New York cats. Dudes play, its fun. So here are a few videos of whats been happening musically.

Time in New York was especially productive, spending the days at Dred Scott's studio banging the instruments around, lots of writing and practicing, and then getting out to play at night. One particular day I got lost in wonder and was sitting at Dred's drum kit, this little studio in an industrial area of Brooklyn, up on the second floor, lots of old records and things around, I began doing this singing and rhythm exercise, really an exercise in losing oneself that Bob Moses teaches called song-contouring. You dance and sing and yell and whatever comes out is allowed to. Its wonderful. A couple tunes came out of it after some hours just hanging with music. Dred has a piano up there as well, some amps, and a couple drum kits that I got to running between and it was t the most fun Ive had alone with music in some years, as far as I remember. Playing alone now has become so practice, get better, learn this tune- heavy, nice to allow oneself to leave that behind for some hours and really celebrate whatever voice and I suppose what could be called oddity I have.

Id love to move to Brooklyn, except its cold, expensive, and the gigs don't pay anything, for at least a while. But I admire greatly all the work and playing the cats I got to play with have put in, there are no hand outs in this industry.

Thanks so much for your time and mind, I hope we can offer some in hope and wonder in return - when I can get away from what surrounds music, art and just play music, be an artist - be with it - something real transcends any hardship. Its not all blue skies and migrating hummingbirds, butterflies and such, sometimes its a tear at what occupies us, but its substantive and our own. Thats why I came to this thing, and I hope we can pass that on through what we do. All the best for the holidays

Todd

Everyone is busy debating whats jazz/not jazz post modern New Orleans Minneapolis music or whatever, I just can't seem to understand why its important to anyone but those trying to be jazz musicians themselves (also take note, most people do not really like jazz). The need to judge comes from insecurity, the need to classify comes from lack of knowledge. Listen, feel free to react, the music is ours to feel. All a musician is doing is organizing sound at the most basic level. They do this informed by habits, tools, and experiences. At its best moments, the sound is organized into something we can feel, that can take us elsewhere, or keep us right there. There is spirit. Its not about us and what we're playing, thats where we've lost everyone. They just don't care unless they have a vested interest in keeping something someway monetarily or as a consequence of their fear of change, of loss or failure.

Maybe we were wrong studying this stuff all the time, that can be frightening, but it very well could be the truth. Soul, feel. Live it. There's so much to discover. Leave the rest behind. It's difficult to do and perhaps posting this is me not being able to remove myself from what I think is silliness. I am guilty of occasional judgements as well.

All these styles of music, while historically significant, pass. What lasts is how the people reacted to the music, how it made us all a bit more alive, how it inspired us to do things we otherwise would not on micro and macro scales - music and art are power, they are our voice. How it gave those unheard a voice. Its yours to make whatever you want, be honest and people know it. But music is not about the musician, we've created stars to sell product now, but music, is far deeper than that, its origins lie in a place we have no understanding of. Thats incredible to me, and buries the cynicism. Say it, what you have to say, be disciplined and available to receive enough to discover, and allow it to become everyone's. They listen and react, its a community, and there's the word beauty.

Todd Clouser's A Love Electric coming on Royal Potato Family Records through 2013


Hello dear friends - saludos (or as spell corrector would have it, salads) queridos amigos -  from a coffee facility somewhere between Montreal and Brooklyn. We're still out covering lots of ground, watching the music grow, feeling fortunate to have some great responses, thanks to everyone who has been coming to the shows.


 1 - Wanted to share the news that we've landed with a new record label, Royal Potato Family Records out of Brooklyn, NY. - www.royalpotatofamily.com. Aside from being home to some amazing artists across genres, Royal Potato Family is run by wonderful people, believers in the imagination and the notion it deserves to be celebrated. 


 Coming Feb 14th - with the release Feb 17th and 18th at St. Paul, MN's The Artist's Quarter - we will drop the first in a 3 record series coming out through 2012, entitled "20th Century Folk selections". Taking into consideration the concern of the world ceasing to exist post 2012 coupled with the inability to cut from tens of songs recorded at Sala de Audio in Mexico City this past June, stemming from a period of ruthless creativity, we've decided it necessary to get loads of new music to you. Our story is only beginning, thanks for being part of it.

  

 

2 - New Yorkers - we have a show I'd go to were I not in the band, Tuesday Dec 13 at 930 p.m.(tomorrow/today) at Littlefield in Brooklyn - littlefieldyc.com - with a group of incredible NYC based musicians, Chris Morrisey's quartet, Rick Parker and 9 Volt featuring Jon Irabagon, and the mighty Steven Bernstein joining us. 

We received an unexpected phone call from one of the most inspiring musicians I've had the fortune of knowing, Cyro Baptista, while soundchecking last night in Montreal and sounds like he's coming by as well.

 

3 - Invierno en Mexico - A Love Electric va a estar en el DF, Chiapas, Oaxaca, y mas en Enero - info @ www.aloveelectric.comds. Ven a celebrar los dias especiales 23 de Dic en el Zinco Jazz Club en el DF. Estamos trabajando en unos arreglos unicos de temas de Navidad, Kwanza, Hanukah, y al menos, Viernes 23 Dic.

 

Come by www.youtube.com/toddclousermusic for some hopefully unique looks at the making of our new records, shows with guests we've drawn inspiration from for years, and a look into the "de-rrangements" that comprise 20th Century Folk Selections.

 

 

All the best, thanks for your time and support

Todd

 

 

 Here's the Front n Back for the first record in the series, which will be announced after the holidays


We had a bit of a delay getting from Queretaro to Mexico City. Alberto Aceves has it all documented. These types of things are clearly happening with greater frequency throughout the world. This incident had an ending we caught later on television, quite ugly. For the few minutes we were able to play music, people seemed relieved.

 

 

A lot to write about, just seeing its been nearly a month since I got a chance to put something up here. We've been through northern California, the south Baja, the Mexican mainland, and back into the Baja since last writing in Tahoe. Tour was wonderful, growing with Aaron Cruz, Hernan Hecht, Mark Aanderud.  More people coming, music growing collectively and individually. There is a voracity, a realist's optimism that happens when the four of us get together, perhaps its the nature of the band, us all residing or being citizens of differing countries, to know no consequence of chance. Its overwhelmingly inspiring, and positive. Im back writing a lot, making too many plans, writing songs, all kinds of great things that happen when I'm in a creatively healthy situation. Helps having Billy Martin around all week to hang with, gather experiences from, and play music with. Im reminded of guys like Bernstein, Ribot, Hernan, Mark, Aaron when we hang with Billy - positive and ruthlessly creative, its a sign of security in self, something that has not always come easy for me, happening more and more often.

It being  Thanksgiving, we're offering a free download and such, check out below - thank you as always for your generous support.

Todd Clouser's A Love Electric

Hoping this finds you well on Thanksgiving with your own, as we celebrate our gratitude for you. Its been 9 months since Ropeadope released A Love Electric's debut record and we've been able to play in places, for people Id never thought possible - this was the dream. Sincere thanks.

 

Please find an unreleased tune for free download at "Its Your Baby", Todd Clouser's A Love Electric - Thanksgiving 2011 Free Download http://soundcloud.com/toddclouser/its-your-baby-todd-clousers-a . The song is called "Its Your Baby", and is only available here. Also below is a video of Tuesday's take on the holiday-appropriate "Amazing Grace", the video featuring Billy Martin on drums in a newly formed quartet. Show two takes place Friday, Nov 25th at Deckman's at Havana, San Jose del Cabo, MX, 8:30 p.m.

 

"Amazing Grace" w/ Aaron Cruz, Mark Aanderud, Billy Martin

 

 

 

Queridos Amigos en Mexico - Gracias por la mejor gira en nuestra existencia, por recibirnos, apoyarnos, y darnos mucha inspiracion. Mas y mas pronto. Con mucho respeto, Todd, Hernan, Mark, Aaron

 

 

See you for much new music as 2011 goes 12. All the best

Todd 

 

Good early afternoon from Lake Tahoe, writing in the back seat of our Honda mini van as Rick Parker and his 12 to 15 cups of coffee manage the wheel. Had an incredible show and time to start things off in Truckee, north side of the lake, an endearing town thats hung to its history. Moody's was the club, really warm people, and we were put up in the connecting hotel Truckee, which has remained virtually unchanged since it's structure left ground level in the late 1800's. Its officially been 8 months since we dropped our first record and started this endless touring, and the music continues to grow into new spaces. Having Hernan Hecht on drums and Aaron Cruz on bass is such a gift, they own it and I trust them, all three the rest of us trust them to keep everything vibrant with life and movement. And the vibe on and off the gig is so positive, the music world can get dark, it can hurt, and we can get pissed off, but I learn a lot from these guys in not making the complaining the usual conversation. It is a tough way to make a living, and perhaps it chose us as much as we chose it, but we're dug deep into it, so celebrate. Im fortunate to play with a bunch of guys that operate that way, most recently Dean Magraw and Jay Epstein in Minneapolis, can't really get through my head how that happened after seeing Dean play for years growing up, and C Bates, Schutte, Meckler are life long friends.

 

The aforementioned other three of us this tour are Rick Parker on the trombone, electric trombone, Dred Scott on the ivory-modeled plastics (keyboards) and myself. Trombone? one may ask. This is not your city big band's trombone playing, all due respect to the many wonderful city big bands in existence, but Rick runs a slew of effects and creates some really incredible textures, aside from burning when its called for. It takes no time for Dred him to assimilate. He's just a ridiculous player and imaginative mind. 

 

Its a really grown up band and I love it. Its taken tome for me to feel comfortable in a setting like this, but at this point Im really apprehension and nerve free, a miracle in itself. Self doubt lingers but I think we're all together in that. Being able to talk warmly as a band, celebrate our individual and collective means of expression, and support each other makes any doubt benign in its effects on playing.

 

We took the drive around the lake yesterday, hung on some rocks and stared at the sky. Its beautiful to rediscover a sense of awe and wonder from time to time when we're not trying to figure a way to make this thing work from the standpoint of logistics, finances, and so on. Just get warm and altruistic. Felt wonderful standing at the lake watching everything. Sent me thinking as to how music lives in the natural world, its been there forever. You can feel lines in the sky. Everything we express is already out there, its just a matter of how close we are to the source of what we want to channel. Passing moments, places I can feel it. If it weren't for music I would be a devout atheist, perhaps hopeless, certainly existential in thought. Thats not to categorize atheists as hopeless, can often be quite the opposite, but with music, at least I believe there is something. I feel like I know it, maybe thats dangerous, but theres a profound sense of depth to life, the human condition, human interaction that lives in music, certainly elsewhere as well. I find it through music. It makes me a believer in whatever it is that does that speaking. Its encouraging to even consider in thought, and to have the opportunity to do so nightly with 4 friends and incredible players, inspired players, I'm grateful.

 

Great news I wanted to share, next month I have the opportunity to perform with someone I've been listening to since my teens, a huge source of inspiration, drummer Billy Martin. 

  We'll be playing Nov 22 and 25 in the Baja, Mexico. More details soon.

Check him out

Back in Los Cabos and out of the race for about a week, feels nice. Been working quite a bit on some Monk  tunes for a record we're doing in a couple weeks with the great Dean Magraw on guitar and Jay Epstein on drums. Its really a thrill for me to be playing with these guys, who I've been watching, drawing inspiration from for some years now. Monk's music is so full of character, I think that is what keeps him timeless and his ideas celebrated by players across the jazz spectrum. I posted something somewhere about playing some of these tunes and a friend commented a teacher had told him "to play like Monk, just play what you usually do but either up a 1/2 step or down a 1/2 step." Rubbed me a bit wrong in that what Monk did has so very little to do with any harmonic concept, this one obviously being a gross oversimplification anyhow. Besides that not really being how he played, at all, it was kind of revealing to me as to the academic world of music versus the creative, and to me spiritual (dangerous word I know), aspects of music. I was very fortunate to have some great teachers that passed on an amazing amount of knowledge of harmony, approaches to tunes, composition techniques, but the most lasting were those that stayed in touch with why we create music, thats the place we must operate from. Emoting to connect, we're not solitary beings, and one of the greatest manners of reaching a sense of unity, commonality, and a greater purpose than serving ourselves is through the arts and music. The less we have of creative, poignant music, the more we suffer and lose track as a people. I realize many of those words are subjective, but think it is safe to say much of what is heard on pop radio these days is largely forgettable and does not do the human race justice.

I'm very grateful to have had those opportunities to learn in school as well as from friends, mentors, and on the gig, where it all hits or falls apart, though Ive also had some teachers who were not so great, that were more interested in either establishing their own authority in a given aspect of music, i.e. this is how its played, how it should be played, what is "right, what is "good" OR so desperately seeking validation and removed from the spirit of music the only examples they used for how music is to be written or played were those of their own doing. "Hey, here's how to play a bossa, check out this tune from my third CD entitled "Saxual", here's the cover... hear that , yea I wrote it, thats the bossa kids." Uh. If its all for yourself, its cathartic, or you're fine with playing to bolster your ego - which is in itself a falsity, the ego is hollow, I suppose thats fine, but lease do not take it out on the rest of us with claims of superiority and the inevitable back talk (see talking to the mirror) that results. 

So back to the Monk quote from the teacher that sent me ranting. Its great to know about intervals, and even how some people employ them, but to know how someone really plays, you have to listen, and feel them. Sometimes there is not much to feel, thats when we lose the listener. If its honest, and you're giving a story of who you are through a solo, how life is feeling, thats where we connect. If we are lost in the academic world of harmonic concepts and rigidity in how things "should be played", that is recreating, we're done for. Its something I have to very careful of. A great drummer, teacher, and inspiring presence Bob Moses, who I had a chance to attend a workshop by this summer, spoke at great length of "unlearning" and considered himself fortunate to not have attended music school, for he had less to "unlearn". His dedication to his craft and self discipline is obviously remarkable, as his self study led him to a place not only of great knowledge of harmony, rhythm, and melody, but also to a unique voice and approach seemingly unfettered by the self doubt many of us sicken ourselves with... "but Im not supposed to do that".

So if you just LISTEN to Monk, thats how you can play, not like him, but with the playfulness, audacity, and beauty that he brought to his compositions and improvisations. Its in there, thats what jazz was and is at its best, human. You can hear a fight in it, even at its most serene and peaceful moments. There's worlds to live in within the music. Its wonderful. It happens in poetry, great music of all genres, nature, art of all mediums, when its real you feel it, its not that hard to detect if we're to step back from what we have learned, our fears of being "good", and just create.

So, go for the soul, not the notes. They will come. You can write them down and play them back in perfect time and still fall completely flat. Its not in the fingers or the text books. (Noted, this post also involves me talking to the mirror, thanks for coming by, hope its of some interest).

Here's some Monk  

Got home late last night from New Orleans and a great tour through the mid/mountain west and a touch of the south. This was our first run hitting some venues we've been to before, our initial tour coming this past March. It was nice to see people coming back out, more new faces, and continue the journey both musically and in terms of making this a viable business to tour in the states. The latter is the difficult part these days, especially in the US. We just don't go out to see music as much as we used to, Im guilty of it as well. One exception to that seems to be New Orleans, where music still hums through the streets and clubs day and night, much of it traditional or original. Meaning you'd probably have to look elsewhere for a version of Brown Eyed Girl, all due respect to Van Morrison for his success, but in all honesty I just need to hear that song any longer. 

We played on WWOZ in New Orleans and I've become a convert to its stream online. Really amazing people, still believers in music's power and creativity, promoting artists of all shapes and styles, and giving much of New Orleans a voice outside the corporate radio structure we find on many city's airwaves outside of NPR. Great experience, check out Chris Bates' reaction

Our Spain run feels like a long time ago, but here's a couple photos

And about a month ago, I had a chance to play with the Aguascalientes Big Band directed by French saxophonist Pierre Bertrand, a tune of Pierre's with a big hole over some Coltrane changes I got to blow on. Pierre played with A Love Electric as well, an honor. Hope to get back again

 Had a chance to drive late into the night yesterday and enjoy some recordings I've been digging. CraigTaborn's"Junk Magic", Marc Ribot's "Silent Movies" and a few Sun Ra records made it a really enjoyable night and set the mind wandering, great feeling being out and feeling removed from the hustle if even for a few hours. 

Had a cool interview in Tulsa, a really great town to play in, that aired on the NPR affiliate there - you can check it out here... let me know how it went, I don't like listening to them. http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/kwgs/news.newsmain/article/0/0/1857880/StudioTulsa/Meet.the.Mexico-Based.Jazz-Rock.Guitarist.Todd.Clouser.(Who.Plays.Tonight.at.the.Soundpony)

 

Looking forward to lots more projects, A Love Electric, and music up through the new year. Have a few new records, one with Dean Magraw and Jay Epstein Im excited about, working on a new A Love Electric record, and a California through Mexico run that spans about a month followed by a couple dates with drummer Billy Martin, grateful and fortunate right now. Thanks for coming by, hop everything is well for you

Abrazos

Todd

Good lawd! Its been a month since I wrote anything here. We've played most every night of that month, so thats my excuse. Been a really busy time, maybe overextended a bit, but feeling fortunate to be experiencing lots of growth. Its hard to gauge in terms of the band, and turnouts, and so on, and really a game I realized I cant be too concerned with if the music is going to stay honest and Im going to maintain a relative level of sanity. But playing, and the music thats being made is coming out more naturally and I think at a level more profound. Part of the madness of being on the road so much is that this absolutely consumes you, music. Unless you're out to party or what not, if we're really there to play, and to grow, discover, moments happen with regularity that transcend what was possible the day prior. We had a moment like that playing today on the radio here in Fort Collins, Colorado. Things just happened completely naturally, the band has grown so close and our ears so tuned to each others, and there's the trust, the most important piece I think, that we can really explore and lean on and off each other, throwing the music and energy around in a really playful and, to me, encouraging, way. No one needs to prove anything to anybody anymore, and thats beautiful, all that gets in the way of actually digging for something that lives in a heavier place. There is a lot to be discovered in music, listening, and playing.

    We had a really incredible run of shows in Spain, 9 gigs in 12 days, across the south of the country and up to Madrid and Barcelona. I was the first to arrive to Madrid after an 8 day stint teaching and performing with A Love Electric in Aguascalientes, Mexico.,... that was an amazing week, 14 hours a day inside music, thats a nice way for me to live. But anyhow, I got to Madrid, got off the plane and decided Id pick up our van and back line. Our van died on the way to get the back line. So I got a tow, left it there for the night, and we played the first gig without bakline, instruments to the PA...which was alright, small jazz club, tour starter gig.... the next day we got the first van to a mechanic and I rented another van, which died on the side of the highway, with the back line inside, in Madrid siesta rush hour. It went on and on for a couple days that put some lines in my forehead, but we survived, played a great show at Sala Clamores, one of Madrid's finest I think, and got out of town with working automobiles and down to the south. Played a bunch more shows, spent a great deal of time on the coast, and ended the tour all feeling like brothers playing to a great crowd at Booga Club in Granada. Fun times, but taxed me a bit. Labored through a show at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC and then headed back to the road for this Colorado mid-west/south/etc run. Last night at Dazzle in Denver and this morning were really on gigs, so looking forward to hitting tonight and heading to the mountains to stare off into the sky for some hours tomorrow. Usually come back with a few songs from that.

Thanks as always for coming by and your support - lots more has been happening, hopefully the words and posts here will catch up to the music in the next few weeks as we have a little bit of down time

Nice to have a day at home, albeit one, with all 24 hours of it off. No complaints whatsoever, but its been a busy past couple months. If we weren't traveling, we were playing, or recording, or a combination thereof. Anyhow, had a fun first run out east, our few days in NYC being the highlight as well as some stops in Pittsburgh, Erie, and Boston along the way. Being on the road with a band is an entirely different reality than the one we live in daily, I personally love it, some people hate it, some can't hang, some self destruct, some thrive. There's always a myriad of dynamics at play when you have five males, their egos, and their instruments in a car, hotel, and on stage each night. There can some rub, but all in all A Love Electric has been a joy to be in, grow as a musician, and make a few of the best friends Ive ever had. Long hours in the van mean most subjects, politics to petty humor, not that those are exclusive of each other, get covered. Regardless of all the psychological side trips mind wandering, so on, the wonderful part of being in A Love Electric is that the music is brought, explored, dug into every night. Our east coast tour we did 12 gigs in 12 days, and while some shows hit harder than others, the music was never skimped upon. We are like-minded in the sense that we all aim for a place of discovery, when it hits, it transcends self.

IMG-20110805-00006.jpg_resized

A LOVE ELECTRIC at the Loring Theater, Mnpls

photo14.jpg Post 12 day East Coast run in Maine.

5959553052_1c54897540_b.jpg_resized At the Minnesota Orchestra's Sommerfest

 

I was down in MX City for a few days as well, a city I love. Got to hang with Hernan Hecht and Aaron Cruz, ad spend 3 days with them beginning work on the new A Love Electric record. Great, rabid, beautiful, it all went down. We had a couple shows, one at El Imperial, a venue new to me, thats more of a rock club, had a great reception, and then played a couple nights later at Zinco Jazz Club to a full room of listeners, minus the two dudes sitting next to Hernan who must have had some very important things to talk about, judging by sonic volume, and volume of words. But no complaints whatsoever, both shows killed and I love my bandmates dearly. Dan Zlotnik, a saxophonist based out of MX City whose band Los Dorados is well known on the scene down there, and who works with a whole host of people across the globe, joined us on sax and killed it. Turns out he's an amazing person as well. Im fortunate. We'll be doing the same lineup soon for a November MX Tour.

Zinco_Jazz.jpg_resized

 

I took a Mx City - NYC flight, slept on the plane, and then met up with master trombonist Rick Parker, check him out at rickparker.net, Chris Bates arriving from Minneapolis, and drummer Tim Kuhl out of Brooklyn, for a quick rehearsal of all new tunes I'd put together, a rock and roll with a some left bents I can't help myself from taking sort of vein. We played a gig that night at a small, colorful room in Brooklyn and then made it to the studio the next morning to record the debut record of what we're calling The Machete Four. I like the name, think it suits the music, we'll see... anyhow, Anton Fier saw on drums. Myself, Rick, Chris, and Anton. A few years back when Bush was in office, ouch, and Stephen Colbert was speaking at the White House Press Correspondents Dinner (who pays for that self congratulatory swankory?) he remarked how in awe he was of being there a few seats from the President, speaking at the dinner, and asked to pinched, or never mind, shot in the face he said, to awake him from his galavanting dream. Yea, thats a long aside, but you know, thats how I felt having the chance to work with Anton. Aside from the excitement and awe of having the opportunity to work with him, we made some fine fine music. Thats what it was really about, Anton made sure of that, things fell in and out of place, mostly in, and everyone got along great and we ended with 9 tunes of vigor and passion from a band spanning three generations of rock lovers - trombone, guitar, bass, drums. Still humming inside from that.

 

So Im back in Minneapolis now and we've had a couple shows in the past few days, staying busy. I love playing, getting better, collaborating with new musicians... and its all there to be had. Positivity - don't get dark - make the most of playing in any situation, give love, and whether or not that results in more people showing up or money coming in there's a sense of serenity and joy thats contagious within the band, the room, and the writing.... Im learning. 

 Had a great show Wednesday at James Buckley's Jazz Series at the Nomad with A Love Electric with a great amount of excellent guests - MNpls music scene is healthy - , then last night I took to singing with The Hope Tonic at the Aster Cafe. It felt great to sing some tunes I haven't sang for over five years, some of the New Machete Four stuff and songs off the Hope Tonic record.... need to make a point to do more of that. Personally, I can get more out of just playing the guitar, emoting, but there's a connection between words and music, and the audience, that takes on a special life, and its beautiful in its own way.... more to explore.

Zen Out

marble.jpg

 

SO thats the ramble. Gonna enjoy the day off and then back at it tomorrow heading to NYC , then down to Aguascalientes MX for a couple weeks of teaching and a nice big theater show with A Love Electric for the 4th Annual Regional Jazz Festival in Aguascalientes. Honored to be a part of it. Gonna get the teaching chops in order.

 

All the best, thanks for your support

Todd

We're packing up to leave for tour, and dont have time for a real blog post, but check out some tour tips at Digital Tour Bus 

http://www.digitaltourbus.com/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=18650#p18650

I went to the beach with my good friend Steve today, good times. He was reading a book out loud, which is nice, hearing the emphasis and such in the spoken word creates for a different experience than simply reading. The book was rooted in metaphysics it seemed, delusions of self, a sociological bent on how we separate ourselves. Real light beach, vacation reading. Anyhow, what I got to thinking, was, each time we go to make music, whether for 5 people or 500, we have the choice of whether to allow the process of connection to something greater take place, or to play for the ego; for some vindication. If we choose the latter, we lose every time. The ego, by its nature, cannot feel vindicated. So it takes humility - listening, patience, and a commitment to discovery, honesty. Then we open ourselves up to moments where we are completely present, where transcendent art can take place. It sounds lofty, but its what brings us all to the show, and where we all started on our instruments.

I think of this song often and the way this sentiment has pervaded our arts culture

 

We've made it about us, the individual, and lack something to unify around. The 60's and 70's had it, the early blues had it, early folk music had it, and the birth of jazz had it. We're singular now more so than those times, and I think it results in more cynicism - a reaction to fear, a defense mechanism - and the result is suffering, which is reflected in our art. We can be entirely self absorbed, or really have little to say. So really just observations I suppose, but a working solution for me is to coninue to find ways to connect to the human experience, and to play each night from a place of exploration, and discovery, and I think that is where the audience reacts as well. We create something and experience it together. 

Thats it, enough with the worry, enough with the naysaying, Im amped to play some music tomorrow with Benny Weinbeck on the piano. Benny plays in such a calm way, its beautiful, and offers a nice contrast to the circus and short circuitry I can have happenin in the head and on the strings... not that I dont like living in the odd spaces, just nice to have some contrast at times. 

  Other than that, we are having fun booking a bunch for July through November, fun because its going well, and we've found people are inviting us back, for better nights, compensation, all that stuff that a life not lived as a hobo, train-hopper, or hunter-gatherer requires. So thats great, that was kind of the timid plan, and its working, which is fun. We're back at Dazzle in Denver in September, get to play a childhood hometown birthday throwdown for my soon to be 85 year old grandmother in Kansas City at Jardine's on Sep 25th... goin to New Orleans. And there's the Spain tour before that, our inaugural east coast tour, tracking the new A Love Electric Record and hitting Zinco Jazz Club in Mexico City, tracking a new project with Anton Fier on drums in NYC, yea I cant believe that either... and some recording with Steven Bernstein for A Love Electric who will augment the incredible sounds of our regular trumpeter Adam Meckler on the forthcoming record.

    If I cant relax and enjoy that, these next few months, then its never happenin, cause all that stuff sounds awesome. 

  Thanks a ton for your support and coming by here. If you're still reading, we love you. Seriously, why not, lets call it what it is. 

  Im heading back to geek out on playing Charlie Parker heads through my new octafuzz pedal....Take it purists! Just kidding, we love you too, and respect you. Abrazos.

Todd Angus

Back home hangin with my peoples on a day off  -- this is livin

 

We had a wonderful time playing for people in the Czech Republic and Germany. Crowds were incredible, listened all night, never took off a set break... I always kind of use that to gauge. Except for one lady the first night at Jazz Dock, which probably had around 80 or so people inside. She was a classical saxophonist her husband told me, and she left holding her ears and grimacing at me. Cannot, indeed, win them all over, but I actually took that as some sort of statement that we do indeed have an identity. We're not whatever she was into, which is fine, there's things I'm not into. That has been a hard part in the last 5 months, answering the question, "well everyone says this is genre defying, what is it really?". Its music, thats it. The sum of melodies, harmonies and rhythms we've absorbed over the years and allowed to coalesce into something our own. We all should be allowed that individuality. If anything in this day is just one thing, i.e. single man bird calls for the lonely, or female jogging music, or screamo... its really trying to be that way, for whatever intention, not always a cynical one. We have so many influences and access to so much music, art, for me, it would be a shame to deny that art its influence in an attempt to be more commercially viable or live within a segmented piece of the artistic, and social pieces attached, world. Influence happens naturally, we grow as people as we obtain information and allow that information to inform our decisions. Music, in my experience, works the same. For that reason writing never gets old, nor seems a task, to me. There is so much material there that I've taken in as a listener, observer, traveler, that if you allow that to come out, its beautiful, cathartic, and at its finest moments, honest. Honest and human. We're not the labels, they are made for marketing purposes. Thats it. They do serve also as a point of reference in language so that we may easier converse about a certain musician. But imagine a conversation about music, a certain song or artist without using any genre-labels. We'd be left just with our emotional responses, how we felt, how we reacted to it, what we heard the composer or performer doing. I'd prefer that.

 

So, Europe, yea its a lot bigger of a place than the two countries, or regions of countries we were in, but for our purposes, "we just went to Europe". The music was good, we survived ourselves, which is really the honest way of saying we survived each other. Anger and frustration only serve as a mirror, I think. We did two shows at Jazz Dock in Prague to close out the run, cannot imagine a finer ending to two weeks of running around and sleeping just a few hours a night. I never adjusted to the time change, which was unfortunate until I got back to Mexico and realized I was right on schedule. I got off the plane Monday after playing with some of the finest musicians I know, Schutte, Meckler, Chris Bates, Hernan Hecht, Mark Aanderud... Dean Magraw and JT Bates prior, amazing and humbling, inspiring, all... and had a show at the Fete de Musique, or Fiesta de la Musica here in Los Cabos the next day. I played it with two young students, as a rapture inducing rock trio. Knowing there was obviously a huge difference in what we were  going to play prior, the gig actually felt no different in terms of self rewards than playing with these monsters in Europe, speaking of the time spent on stage. You're either in the music, its into you and you're speaking it, or you're just spitting out notes. It was fun getting lost in the music with teenagers the same way Im able to with the incredible and accomplished musicians in A Love Electric. The product was different, and people can make a quality judgement on it, but when we were playing, we were there.

Alright, thanks for coming by, excited to get out and keep playing through the summer. Back at Deckman's playing a bunch of more straight jazz tunes Ive been shedding, I love stealing from that stuff and it improves all aspects of playing, memory, creativity... if you're able to leave it behind as well... so thats tomorrow night, then get to reconnect with friend and pianist great Benny Weinbeck in Minneapolis next week. More then!

Ahh yea, and after much encouragement, well being threatened that we cant get gigs without better photos, I got an official photoshoot... maybe I mentioned this on here before.... it was actually cool, Daniel Solorio is the photographer, from Guadalajara, coolest guy.

 

 

Abrazos, Take Care, All the best, Thank you for your support

Todd

Improvisation is the practice of acting, singing, talking and reacting, of making and creating, in the moment and in response to the stimulus of one's immediate environment and inner feelings   --- SAYS WIKIPEDIA.

That seems about right. The most poignant pieces being "in the moment" and "immediate environment and inner feelings". Inner feelings isnt the most desirable of terms, but ya know. As we grow as musicians, and gain more tools, often the "in the moment" piece can get lost. We find more tricks, licks, scale choices, things we think people should hear and know about us, things they shouldnt. That all gets in the way of finding a more honest way to improvise. If we are indeed reacting to our surroundings in the moment, the emotions of the day, night, week, whatever is inside that needs to come out, I think thats when the heaviest of musical moments happen. When the whole room comes alive and we all know we've just been part of something human. Thats what I want every night I have the fortune of playing. The tricks, scales, licks, voicings, piece is all wonderful when looked at as acquiring tools to more honestly express, not necessarily to impose upon the music thats already happening. This is all of course assuming we want to improvise, sometimes we don't.

Its really not an entirely novel concept, we improvise in most all that we do. What makes improvisation in music a special experience, more notable than that of a conversation we have with a friend? I think its first that playing music, and improvising, comes of a language that is universal, and only requires the impulse to use it. It is a language we all speak, all we need to do is look at children and the way the gravitate towards a rhythm innately, or a melody. My first impulse on guitar was to make stuff up. I still do that every time I practice, then I forget it. Its fun, and keeps music fun for me even if Ive just spent hours on a Parker head or working out a tune, whatever it may be, then to just play is freeing and often more potent.

The cliche is that improvisation is spontaneous composition. I guess, really to me its telling a story when we're more deliberate, whether its one we want to tell or not, though reaching further, if we free ourselves to take part in "reacting, making and creating, in the moment and in response to the stimulus of one's immediate environment and inner feelings" (thanks Wikipedia), whats left is be a diary for all to read. There's also the case where there is a real lack of tools or vocabulary and people are making stuff up, which is sometimes quite beautiful, usually when the improviser is either aware of the situation of limited tools or entirely unaware of it, but anyhow, thats a whole 'nother post. Often the most transcendent moments Ive had improvising come when not playing the guitar, if we all switch instruments or I sit alone with an instrument I'm no good at, have little awareness of how it "should" be played, beacuse I dont have the self expectations, which turn into limitations, of being good at what Im doing.

Some people more eloquent and intelligent than I and their thoughts on improvisation

 

 

 

Para Espanol, mas abajo!  

A year ago I got in touch with Hernan Hecht at the suggestion of some friends in Guadalajara and put together a quartet with Seba Dimarco and Julio de la Cruz from Los Cabos, Hernan on drums, for a short tour in Mexico City and Guadalajara. We played small rooms, the music was in its infancy, but it went off well enough to continue the relationship with Hernan and get back to the venues. We hadnt recorded our record yet, but it was the but the few gigs we id served as the beginning of A Love Electric. I worked out the tunes after our first run, lots of personal changes, and we did the record with Steven Bernstein on trumpet, Greg Schutte, and Gordy Johnson on bass. We did another short MX run as a quintet in November with Mark Aanderud on piano, at Hernan's suggestion, and Chris Bates on bass. Better venues, good turnouts, so on. Then Ropeadope picked up the record after I sent out many a booking emails, cold calls, management inquiries, so on. We ended up with a label, a great publicist, and a record that hopefully more people would get to hear. That was just 3 months ago, its been fun to watch things grow, most importantly the music and relationships with the other players. Like minded friends, unafraid to play in a genre-less, improvised musical space. 

I just got home last night from our latest Mexico run, two weeks in Mexico City, Puebla, Queretaro, Guadalajara, Aguascalientes, and something went right. We played to full rooms of people in complete silence when the music was happening. The music dug hard, we all got along, and the venues were, in all honesty, universally thrilled to have had us and invite us back. There is a vibrancy that happens down here in Mexico that can often get lost, in my experience, in some places in the US, where we have all become music's best critics. A willingness to listen and let the experience happen is where the audience operates from down here. Its really lovely.

Music is about documenting our emotions, documenting our collective human experience, involuntary reactions to sound are the art of the audience. The relationship between the audience and the musician is cyclical, musicians give, audience receives and gives, a direction is encouraged by the response, and it continues, its human, and pure. That all gets lost when all we are thinking about is ourselves, our own playing, our own chance to step in front it, it really is an exercise in humility and restraint to succesfully create a collective experience in a band like A Love Electric. I need to work on all this, its easier to identify now, its just the breathing piece, the detatching that sometimes gets lost.

 

Its not about who we play with, record labels, who is better, it IS about what we can communicate that is real and unique to us. Thats where people respond, to the truth. Its easy to get there in music if we just allow ourselves to. If we are mired in self expectation, and dictated by the ego's desires for approval, from an audience, another player, or ourselves, music is lost. This tour, with almost no exception, we were able to have five guys that operated on that level together, working within the framework of compositions to create something new, honest, and unique, and talk about the direction without anyone taking things personally. This doesnt happen often. Its spiritual when it hits, for a lacker of a better word. And again, its easily lost, if we get inside our own heads, think about ourselves, who we resent, who resents us. Leave it to the music and its all washed away, we come out clean and burning. 

So anyway, Im really fortunate to have had this opportunity and of course lots of others come about as a result of this tour. Thank you to all our friends who came out in Mexico, to Alberto for making these gigs happen, and to Aaron Cruz, Adam Meckler, Hernan Hecht, and Mark Aanderud... any of those names come across as unknown, dig a little and check them out, each player is a storied monster in his own right.

 Our tour closing show was in Aguascalientes, host to Mexico's largest party,which says a lot, the Feria de San Marcos. We played at the beautiful Casa de Cultura, a building that dates back to the 17th century, to an incredible listening and responsive crowd. Favorite A Love Electric gig yet.... you get in a concert space like that and things come alive, even after just a couple hours sleep and 11 shows in 11 nights.

 

Perdon por escribir solo en Ingles --- todavia es dificil para mi a escribir sentimientos en Espanol. Pero, gracias thank you. Hasta Octubre. Abrazos.

UNOS LINKS EN ESPANOL

http://prison-for-young-offenders.tumblr.com/post/5202447869/entrevista-con-todd-clouser-parte-1

http://www.razon.com.mx/spip.php?article74563

Sala De Audio

 

 

I will make time to write a real Blog entry after this weekend. Its been 9 shows in 10 days from Cali to Philly to NYC, to Mexico. Love all that, just short on time. Here's a couple videos from some NYC gigs... more on that later. Its a blast having Mark Aanderud on this whole run, he is a monster. Hernan Hecht and Aaron Cruz playing together for 10 years makes for some completely evil groove happenings, show tonight shook down hard. Fun. Meckler destroying it in the funkiest of rooms in Brooklyn. The Ropeadope show w/ Dj Logic in Philly

Shedding... studying... little blog time, but here's a piece of what happened at the Mabel Tainter Theater last Friday, seriously beautiful venue, and got to share a bill with the great Dean Magraw, which I hope to write a bit more about at a date yet undetermined, soon

 

 

Ive been fortunate to have a period of growth over the past 8 months or so in playing, and personally, so there's been little looking back. A bad gig can throw things all out of sort. We played a trio gig tonight that just wasnt good, not happy with how I played, hacked up a bunch of tunes I though I knew, or once did, and was inexplicably nervous prior to playing. Afterwards, the club owner, who is ever supportive and was actually cool with the show - it wasnt complete disaster, just poorly played - mentioned to me that a prominent jazz club owner who was in attendance at our one off Muddy Waters night, came in and ripped it afterwards. Some of the rips are warranted, it was thrown together, a one off, first time and raw band deal, but anyhow, these things tend to coalesce into an unhealthy amount of self-doubt, being a hyper-sensitive artist as I am. So there's the initial reaction, what does he know, blah blah, reasoning to myself why that opinion is invalid. But its not. Its part of this thing as the further and further we get out in front of people, and the more chances I take with other projects, not everyone will enjoy it, some people will be rubbed wrong, and some may simply have a correct and valid opinion on a nights music that was not up to what was hoped for. So take it and grow from it, or be destroyed and grow defensive and attack the source, thats the choice. It happens in everything, everywhere, not just with music, thats just what my little life revolves around. 

     So about the gig tonight, I played poorly, presenting another choice to make. Mire in self-pity, attack the audience for not getting it, or constructively criticize the self and grow from it. The last is the hardest option to take, but the healthiest and only choice if we are to have any sort of longevity and persistence, not to mention a healthy heart and conscience to emote from on a nightly basis.... which is what I need to have good gigs, to do what we do and feel. Detachment from results is so difficult when we grow up with completely innocent motives to create and share. Naivete somehow has come to imply stupidity, but in its true sense, naivete nurtures honesty. When experience confronts the altruistic outlook, it hurts. And there's a lot of options as to reactions. Writing this, I think, helps me take the healthiest one.

   So doubt sets in after a combination of feedback and self-criticism, and the mind spins. "Im really not a jazz guitarist, I dont play like Pat Metheny, or Jonathan Kreisberg, or on down the line.... maybe everyone thinks Im a fraud, perhaps this whole attempt at life in the music industry is ill-fated and presumptuous. I probably completely suck". Ten people told me it was great, but the one who trashed it, thats the one I remember. Truth is, Im not a jazz guitarist in the sense of the aforementioned masters of standard repertoire, and I dont sing like Muddy Waters when we do our one off Blues Revue. Thats true, and its fine. The further we get down the line, more we're out, standing to be judged - willingly - the more it becomes apparent the only relevant matter is honesty to self. That includes practicing when you dont want to, doing the business legwork, and taking criticism - even when non-constructive - in stride. You have to love it all and keep cynicism at bay. There are a number of factors that play into a single person's reaction to the music and thats just not something we can control as musicians, all we can do is present honestly. 

  So thats my unfiltered rambling after a bad gig. Hope to temper it on Friday after a great A Love Electric gig.... and at the next Blues Revue, and on our next jazz trio gig. Because I honestly love all that stuff, and will keep playing it, and working to make it as honest and well-crafted as it can be.

I had this epic music industry piece Id written for the BLOG here, had it all figured out, broken down, ended with an optimistic edge though bent on realism throughout, some historical context, touch of humor..... edited, so on, that I lost, closed the blog without saving to another program. That was the ONE! 

What Id hoped it was to say is that the traditional music industry was nothing but a corporatization of the arts that ended up dictating what we hear as opposed to offering us a more altruistic vision of artistic mediums. That sustainability and capitalism should not be mutually exclusive, but seem to have been over the past couple decades, and that the music industry bubble is not at all different from the various other "bubbles" that are spoken of. Its gone and Im glad. Unless you listen to one of a dozen artists, you probably are too. But the point was, I think it will take the public's ears time to catch up. We digressed, our tastes and adventurous spirit were reduced, as we came to expect a certain something from our art as opposed to react to it sensually. Now we're all self-accredited critics, and cynicism and apathy are found as commonly as hope and altruism. 

  It was all much more eloquent than that. Anyhow, Im optimistic, if things are to be done out of honesty and love, we'll survive.

Here are some magnificent creations I've been enjoying --- Been writing a lot of music and otherwise these days between our time out on the road. Come back by for some demos of upcoming recordings ...  I'll be recording with a couple groups in May in Mexico City, and more from there.

 

Then there's the elephant story. This is beautiful.

Jazz, to me, is, and was born from hope and triumph. It is not the contrived ideas of condescension and fear, allowing the player, or listener, to distance themselves from their fellow man. Its an invitation to converse as dictated by emotion. That invitation is not always accepted, just see attendance at some jazz gigs around town. But the music is beautiful in opportunity..... let it live that way.

We're on tour and Im all music riddled and altruistic, if not bitten by the realities of playing music that can be challenging to the ear in terms of financial compensation for doing so. Regardless, we will go on doing what we love, and hoping we are in some way making life more interesting, enjoyable, passionate for the people who listen.

Check here www.electrictour.wordpress.com for a tour blog run by our trumpet master, Adam Meckler.

Staying busy before our tour comes, but fortunate to have some time to get a new crew of tunes together for the run. 

Had a great rehearsal today with Pedro Cervera, drums and Nahuel Bailo, keyboards. A new trio we've got going that is sounding heavy, brave. Two Argentine players and a midwestern US kid, its a trip, and fun. Playing in Los Cabos is limiting, its always felt that way because we allowed it to be that way. This place, as much as any other, when the tourist season comes, is about the dollar. Restaurants hire safe bets, and there's little in the way of long term artistic vision in music. Its fun watching that change right now. Perhaps its due to the slow down or just the growth of players here, but we have a really happening number of musicians right now making interesting things happen. Whether theyre getting paid to do so or not, different story, but it is happening. Cool to watch and be a part of.

I remember in years past watching Nahuel and Pedro play and not being ready to hang. When I headed back down to the Baja this year I made a conscious effort to put bands together with all the guys that I could learn from, had been out playing longer, werent shy about calling you out or directing the music to a better place. It requires a degree of humility but also feeds self discipline, both contributing to a better state of awareness while in the music. Good times, even when your ego is being shattered and what you thought was your style coming through rendered inappropriate for a certain tune. Its mostly true...... though all depends. 

 We have our final Beautiful Organ Trio gig this Wednesday, as Roberto Blanco (Bobby White) is leaving for England. Best to Roberto, thanks for all the wisdom. There is more music to be made together.

 

Was a little slow to get up this morning, until this....

A recent interview published by Guitar Center Stage

 

TODD CLOUSER

Guitars Center Stage
Guitarists making waves in the music world, 
their new recordings and gear!



Musical Background

I got my first guitar at age 11 and took to it pretty quickly. For whatever reason, it offered me something I was lacking in terms of the ability to express myself. That has persisted to this day. I played throughout my teens, had a few rock and improv based bands, and got pretty serious around 16. Once I had the opportunity to go to college, after some time running around the country following bands and doing some playing, I applied to Berklee and headed to Boston. I spent three years there, took to heavier jazz, learned piano proficiently, and graduated with a bunch of songs I had been working on during my time in school. I was a recluse in college, mostly studying and composing, and found the hypertension and competitive nature of the scene there, a bit of an introduction into the music business world, kind of defeating. So when the degree came, I got out of Boston and started a band with some friends back in Minneapolis.

New CD

The new record that Ropeadope is putting out is called Todd Clouser's A Love Electric. Some taglines that get attached to it are "energy driven jazz rock", "70's era electric jazz brought modern", etc… but the descriptive words aren't something that really do much for me, seems music is best left to the ears. We like to categorize before we hear, unfortunately, and of course it makes things easier to sell. 

The aim of the disc was to take these tunes I'd composed and really allow the musicians to play and put themselves into it. The parts and sections are all deliberate, but it’s a jazz disc in the sense that we all improvised heavily. All the players are really incredible musicians, all celebrated in their own projects, so it was a gift to get everyone into the studio. On the upright bass is Gordy Johnson, who used to play with Chuck Mangione amongst a host of ridiculous projects. Steven Bernstein, who has really become a mentor to me in many ways, is on trumpet, also playing one of the few slide trumpets in the world. He's just an amazing person I talk about a whole lot, maybe too much, but we've done a couple tours together now and his musicality, sense of people, and the possibility he brings or reaching epic peaks in the tunes always defy logic. 

Bryan Nichols, who everyone in the jazz scene will hear a ton about in the next few years is on the Rhodes, played through an old Fender Twin with all kinds of dirt on it which kind of serves as the blanket throughout the record. We really wanted an aggressive sound and the voicing Bryan gravitates towards aids in achieving that. Greg Schutte is on the drums, and he co-produced the record with me. 

We recorded at Schutte's studio, in his basement, Gordy, Greg, and myself first and then brought in the other guys. It had an attitude about it immediately and everyone took to the tunes, so it was an exciting process.

As for the guitars, I didn't want to make a guitar record, it was more about the composition, though of course I still love to blow. Some guitar records can just get nonmusical to me, just an ego, look at me, kind of party where everyone else just lays down a foundation for the guitarist. Didn't want that. So I used my normal setup and tried to be tasteful in where the guitar was necessary, where it best served the song, and where I could lay out. In terms of guitar style, it’s aggressive, but not something I’m ashamed of. I like rock guitar to sound like rock guitar, and that’s what these songs called for, though there are some more jazz moments on there in terms of tone and approach. We'll see where the next project leads, but really for me it was just about being conscious of what this music needed from the guitar, not what I could impose upon it.

Favorite Guitars

I play a Gibson ES 335, and have for about 6 years now, pretty exclusively. I find it’s really versatile and the sound it emits just sings. I've become almost dangerously accustomed to it, and have trouble crossing over to other guitars, with the jazz box guitars being maybe the easiest jump to make. There are a couple Stratocaster moments on A Love Electric where we needed that grit and cut to break into the kind of swath of sound we had going. 

For effects, Im actually pretty simple, I have a couple Analog Man pedals, the Ross Compressor Clone that is on about 70 percent of the time, The "King of Tone", which is basically just two decked-out tube screamers, and the ZVEX Super Hard On, kind of a pre-amp or clean boost pedal. You can hear the traditional Crybaby wah all over the record. Those are always around and I often play live with just those three or four going.

Now that we're getting our on the road more, I like to have more sonic options, so I've added some more ZVEX stuff, the Tremorama and the Fuzz Factory, along with an old Boss analog delay. The analog delay you can hear quite a bit of on A Love Electric as well, one of those I picked up as a kid and has been a survivor, has a great warmth about it. I also have a Line6 DL4, which I mainly just use as a looper or if we get dangerous and some reverse is appropriate. I do like noise, so have to temper myself a bit. I play mostly through Fender twins, love the vibrato and spring reverb on them and dial those in appropriately. On "One", the Harry Nilsson tune we did on the record, a PRoCO RAT was called in.

On the guitar, I generally play on the neck pickup with the tone knob at about 4 to 7, tweaking as sounds right to me. Some band mates, engineers take shots at me for it being too bass heavy, but it sounds right to me there. You can be gentle or scream, kind of has a tenor sax sonic range that I love.

Musical Influences

Musical influences are all over the board for me, what I’ve always sought is what I perceive to be honesty in the music I really take to. My perception is only that, but when someone really emotes, what they have, it’s a pretty wonderful experience to listen to as long as I stay open to different styles of music. I guess that could be a piece of what has led our music to be called "genre-defying", it’s a combination of all I've taken in as a listener and student, and a lack of inhibition, or fear, in getting out whatever music I’m feeling. Generally, the limits we put on ourselves, or judgments we place on others' music, their styles, etc, is just a reflection of our fears. 

So for specific influences, I started with 90's rock, Pearl Jam, was led to Jimi Hendrix, stayed there for a while. Once I discovered all the great jazz players, it opened up a new world to me in terms of what I could play on the guitar, suddenly my chord choices, melody lines, solo lines, were infinite in possibility, which is a bit overwhelming. I've tried to find my place in between all of it, but there is always a sense of "man, I could never play like that, its so good." Peter Bernstein comes to mind as one of those. His ideas are so clear and concise, accurate, but its still achingly human. Bill Frisell I love, Nels Cline. Marc Ribot is probably my favorite living guitarist, from what he does with all the T Bone Burnett projects to his work with Los Cubanos Postizos to his more avant projects, it’s all real and raw. Outside of guitarists, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, on and on.

Albums I've loved over time are Brian Eno's Discreet Music, Bill Frisell'sNashville, any number of Hendrix albums, Medeski Martin and Wood's It’s a Jungle In Here. The aforementioned Marc Ribot and Los Cubanos Postizos albums, Radiohead's Kid A, lots of the Alan Lomax field recording collections. Tons of great stuff.

Upcoming Plans

We're going to be busy, which is thrilling. February 18th we take off for a 3 week mid/mountain west tour in the US, then back down to the Baja for some residency gigs, teaching, our Arts Day OUt Festival which is this non-profit I founded down in Los Cabos to spur interaction between the ex-pat and local Mexican communities by way of the arts, aimed at the area's youth. We're at the Liga Mac jazz festival in Los Cabos in March, an incredible annual event to support the needs of some of the families lacking resources in the Los Cabos area, and then we're off for an extended California into Mexico tour. I love getting out and meeting everyone, taking in new towns, the inspiration never ends when life is lived like that, so I’m very fortunate and grateful to have these opportunities coming up.

We've already begun tracking and flushing out ideas on another A Love Electric release with some of the Mexico based players, and I have a couple other projects, one called Drive By Film, I hope to get recorded late summer with our classic trio of Benny Weinbeck, bassist Adam Linz, and Greg Schutte, more sparse and straight ahead in the jazz way of talking about things. 

There's talk of Europe with Mark Aanderud in June or July and then hopefully the East Coast U.S. Its been a lot of work developing musically and getting to a place personally where I can feel good about doing all this and stay healthy, took about all of my 20's, it’s just beginning, and its a really great time for me.

Web Site

The website is www.toddclouser.com, though you can go to www.aloveelectric.com and end up in the same spot. Any press and booking stuff goes to home@toddclouser.com. We're kind of expanding our operation a bit with the tours going on in two countries and now being on Ropeadope, but always make a conscious effort to stay in the digital media loop on Facebook. Facebook.com/toddclouser. I've got a bunch of duets and youtube specific videos that will be up in the coming months at youtube.com/toddclousermusic and our website has a blog as well that we keep pretty well updated.

Todd Clouser & A Love Electric

Insecurity January 8, 2011

Most musicians I know and play with, and without doubt myself, battle a lot of insecurity. Doubts as to their playing's proficiency, validity, ability to make a living doing so. There is a risk in exposing yourself, something in some folks seems to really feel vindicated by seeing and pointing out the weakness of others. Those arent the type of people to create art with.

But as for insecurity as a musician, I battle loads of it, though over years I have developed the skill of catching myself before I get to the I completely suck level of self-deprication and pity. Its really revealing looking back at some of whats been created and seeing how it actually went off in reality, not in the twisted ego though process. About half the time, my perception of how things went, if the music was any "good" is wrong. There's some aount of doubt that is healthy and fuels motivation, ambition to create more honestly and practice, but the insecurity that leads to negative reactions - towards others, self, acting out with judgement - is only self defeating. 

When we finished A Love Electric, I was pretty convinced it wasnt that good. After about a month, I started to like it, as time went on I found some really great pieces in it. In the end, now, Im really comfortable and satisfied with the record, but getting there mentally, even after all the composition, recording, business, ends, was a process. I dont think it needs to be that way. If we can just leave all expectations aside and focus on creating the music we have to emote, feel, it comes out right. As young musicians we all grow up celebrated and eager to show the world our art, and are often certain the world is waiting, then we are tempered by reality, and some of us never return to the ability to express with an excitement. Things get cynical fast.... and thats all fear, fear of inadequacy, fear we have it all wrong, fear someone will tell us we suck or scoff at our wide-eyed approach to life, tearing at the unique voice and passion we all have.

So tonight, Im going to the gig thinking only of the music we'll play, being prepared but free of expectations, without worry of treactions, and grateful to have the opportunity to play an instrument and create, improvise, say the things Im feeling through the music. Im going to listen and share with my bandmates. Its going to be a wonderful experience. 

 

Holiday gratitude December 25, 2010

We can become so concerned with ourselves we lose any ability to consider the idea that maybe our convictions are at the very least worthy of question, and in some cases, wrong. The ego rules in modern capitalist culture, we like to win and have demonstrated exceptional talent for deluding ourselves into believing no one was treated unfairly or unjustly by our actions, in fact we often somehow reason we were helping them, and that we are in fact brilliant, often misunderstood voices. Our emotional survival instinct creates the ego to shelter us from what can be a difficult onslaught of reality as to our place in things, so impulsive reaction becomes the norm, self defense, posturing, etc.

The finest manner to combat the ego and its cunning attempts to govern our actions and desires is the practice of gratitude for not only what we have to enjoy, but gratitude for the accomplishments of others. Creations of others deserve our gratitude. Simple gratitude, ahhhh

Here are some musical goods I am grateful to have the chance to spend some time with these holidays

Most gorgeous tune... to me... Mingus' - to Lester Young - "Goddbye Pork Pie Hat"

Admittedly, sadly, I only heard Eyedea posthumously, this on air freestyle is modern bebop

 

 

Grateful these guys worked it hard. Makes the heart shake, puts the hips on the make.

Performance art meets Bob Dylan's "Love Sick", raw lyrics, brilliant band, passion dance

Remember seeing this on SNL as a kid for the first time.... and my angst had a voice.

Home December 7, 2010

Home to San Jose del Cabo. Have not processed the last few weeks yet... Bernstein, A Love Electric tour, went too fast. Some seriously heavy musical moments personally. Really making the music I want to right now, which is incredibly rewarding.... lucky to fall into playing with Hernan Hecht on drums, he brings an inherent energy and movement to the music I had always hoped for when writing. Sick stuff. Love it. All the audiences were so positive, accepting of the chances and improv we jumped at, thank you. Some moments of real growth. I also dont feel like we threw out any bullshit... or even tricks for that matter, werent rehearsed enough to pull the tricks, the dynamics of the music all came about naturally. Lovely. Any more positive adjectives?

This became the band's favorite tune of the tour, a new ballad called "A Tune for Harms Done" ... our favorites dont match the audiences more often than not

 

 

Back at it rehearsing with the Beautiful Organ Trio today, totally different approach, playing Monk tunes in odd times, working on phrasing and accuracy, studying. A great way to temper the purging of expression and emotion that A Love Electric brings. Back to practice.

Some tour goods ... Fillet of fish to the I Wet of Garlic ... mmmm

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Been having a lot of press inquiries coming in, which feels strange. Its forward movement and supports the idea of getting music out in front of people, and reaching a point where we can get out more, but something feels contrived about it all. I hope the music is interesting, and I suppose a lot of what is in there is a personal story, but its a bit difficult to think about talking about it. The interviews generally go well and I leave feeling like I learned something about what we're trying to do, where music's place is.... just by the questions that get asked. But it really opens things up to be categorized, so on..... and Im not always great with wearing the armor. Maybe dont have to. Live and let live. Sounds nice.

Mexico City November 28, 2010

 

Hey! Here at the hotel in Mexico City with Chris Bates watching some American football en Espanol and talking through some charts. This tour has been killin. We did Zinco Jazz Club on Friday and had an incredible turnout, given the cover price and lack of print promo, place was full, lots of energy. A really beautiful spot to play, its what used to be a national bank Im told and there's safes, cells, giant metal doors throughout the green room and back. Has the historied vibe going on that we can sometimes lack in the states as rents .... the strip mall chain store gentrification becoming commonplace pricing out many of the really unique jazz,music joints around the country. Played the Film Club Cafe last night, an all ages spot, which I love.... everyone comes to listen, people really ready for whatever is coming out as long as we keep it honest, felt great. Got a ride home from the Club owner in his 1964 Plymouth, thing is an absolute relic. Sofa seats, sky blue color, no power steering, shared seatbelt across the front three seats. Incredible people, inspiring time.

  But to the good, the band is hooking up and taking all the songs we're doing to new places and we've been throwing in some free pieces as well. Tomorrow we're at this studio here called Sala de Audio to record as a quartet. We havent been performing the tunes to track live yet but will add them once we get back to the shows on Tuesday. If you havent checked out Hernan Hecht yet, you need to.... incredible drummer, musician, plays a ton. We've got all sort of plans, things are hitting, Europe talk, good stuff. Incredibly grateful.

 

     Out to hit the modern art museum and see what kind of festivities are swinging through the streets today.... yesterday there was a youth taekwondo parade, groups stopping to take some swings at their compatriots' pads as directed by the whistle of their leader. Loved it, then tacos dorados.

 

Thanks for all your support

 Forgot to mention Bernstein week tour was another total success. He is such a great player, personality, and teacher. Learned a ton, got in front of a bunch of new friends. Have some videos up here soon. Apparently the record label Ropeadope, is gonna do some sort of live video tune-in with the A Love Electric Bernstein show.

 

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