Todd Clouser’s tasteful jazz is hardly dinner music
Todd Clouser is not limited by geographic or musical borders.
A native of Minnesota, he has lived in Mexico for five years, and while Clouser can be considered a jazz guitarist, he’s clearly influenced by all kinds of styles. Maybe that’s what happens when exposed to King Crimson at an early age. Besides, an eclectic approach, Clouser said, can open people’s ears, because to some “jazz can be a dirty word people might equate with boredom or dinner.”
Touring as a quintet, Clouser’s band is in the midst of 22 shows in 26 days in Minnesota, California and Mexico. The five-piece group plays Thursday, April 27, at Moody’s Bistro in Truckee and Friday, April 28, in the Divided Sky at Meyers.
Clouser, who released last year a superb CD, “A Love Electric,” had an impressive Tahoe debut last April at the Divided Sky. He wrote all the songs on his album but live he played some jazzy versions of well-known rock songs, including one by his favorite guitarist, Jimi Hendrix.
“I like to do new arrangements while still respecting the original songs,” he said. “If I try to limit myself to one genre, I feel restrained.”
The 30-year-old Berklee School of Music graduate spoke to Lake Tahoe Action after a studio session with a pair of veteran Minnesota jazz stars – Jay Epstein, a 65-year-old drummer who has performed with Chick Corea, and Minneapolis guitar great Dean Magraw. The trio put their takes on some Thelonious Monk tracks.
Clouser said he strives for an honest approach – “I’m not (like Monk) an African-American living in New York in the 1950s.”
Clouser attracts listeners by exploring different styles.
“It happens both ways,” he said. “People relate initially to Nirvana or Velvet Underground, and that opens the door to improvisation. … Energy and honesty is what we have to offer.”
Taste is another attribute.
“It’s electric jazz with elements of rock and funk,” Clouser said. “A lot of improvisation, and hopefully not self-indulgent. I want to respect the song, the musicians and the audience. … I love all sorts of great players but it’s hard to listen to someone who is staring at the ground playing every note he knows.”
Clouser after finishing Berklee played in some Minnesota rock bands. He said he became cynical about music before moving to San Jose del Cabo Del San Jose where he taught music to fourth-through-ninth-grade students.
“That set me right,” he said. “I rediscovered altruism and hope in music. Before (some music seemed so) simple and mundane I would scoff at it. But I saw the human connection with music, kids finding joy in the music.”
Clouser, in what he called a dream come true, for the first time last summer played in Europe, touring along with another Mexican jazz band for weeks in Spain and Germany.
For this tour, Clouser is accompanied by pianist Dred Scott (a frequent Moody’s player), bassist Aaron Cruz, drummer Herman Hacht and trombone player Rick Parker. Each are from Mexico or New York.
Occasionally, Lake Tahoe Action will break editorial protocol and endorse a show. Jazz fans, guitarheads and music lovers in general will appreciate hearing Clouser and his band.
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