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 Saturday, 01 November 2014
Todd Clouser’s A Love Electric Plays a “Naked Beat” at the Icehouse, February16th PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Wednesday, 13 February 2013

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The Naked Beat
 

“I am not a fan of scenes or genres. I just genuinely enjoy expressing, being playful, celebrating the possibility in music.” – Todd Clouser

 

When guitarist Todd Clouser signed with the Royal Potato Family, he planned to bring out three recordings by his A Love Electric ensemble by the end of 2012. The band’s label debut, 20th Century Folk Music, was released early in the year, followed a few months later by #2, Entre: Selections in Garage Jazz. Now Clouser, making his vocal debut, is touring in support of the most rock-ified yet, The Naked Beat, to be officially released on February 19th. With his Minnesota edition of A Love Electric (Adam Meckler, Bryan Nichols, Chris Bates and Greg Schutte), Clouser is back in the Twin Cities for a late night celebration at the Icehouse on Saturday, February 16th.


Todd Clouser and A Love Electric

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Todd CLouser©Andrea Canter
From the Twin Cities to Baja, Todd Clouser has been building a career as a guitarist, producer, composer and educator, accumulating accolades and performance credits along the way. After two well-received collections (Baja in 2006 and Beatnik Highway in 2008), Clouser brought his many influences together in the first A Love Electric recording (2010, Out of Tuba Music), followed by tours throughout the Midwest and gigs at the Dakota, Red Stag, Artists Quarter and more.

A graduate of the Berklee College of Music, Clouser has studied with Marc Ribot, Jonathan Kreisberg, David Fiuczynski, Medeski, Martin and Wood, David Tronzo, Peter Sprague, and Berklee professors Jim Kelly and Mike Ihde. He has performed with Keb Mo, members of the Billy Joel Band, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and guitarist Jack Sonni (Dire Straits), and has collaborated frequently with Grammy nominee, slide trumpeter Steven Bernstein, who has been featured with A Love Electric. Clouser spends most of his time these days in Los Cabos, Mexico, where he performs regularly at the area’s top venues, teaches privately and through local schools, and is the founder of Arts Day Out, an annual free event to celebrate and inspire the youth of Los Cabos through the arts, without money or fundraising.

Over the past two years, Clouser has toured extensively with A Love Electric bandmates Adam Meckler (trumpet), Bryan Nichols (keyboards), Chris Bates (bass) and Greg Schutte (drums) throughout the U.S., and with bassist Aaron Cruz and drummer Hernan Hecht in Mexico. Other ongoing projects include The Beautiful Organ Trio with Roberto Blanco and Pedro Cervera, and The Hope Tonic with Twin Cities drummer JT Bates.

A Love Electric adds Clouser to a generation of jazz guitarists melding rock (particularly 70s style), groove, and hard boppin’ jazz, creating a sound both nostalgic and forward-moving through waves of 21st century technology. But why three recordings in 12 months? “The entire series, though not initially intended to do so, really serves as a commentary on the irrelevancy of genre and division between musics and the resulting animosity between people,” explained Clouser in an interview earlier this year. “It’s nonsensical how segmented we've become, and its the direct result of the human desire to ‘belong,’ to have an identity. Our fear of being invalid has been capitalized upon by the powers of marketing, and many of us have adopted a false self, an ego-driven self….We, this band, mean to demolish that, any pretention, by offering music that means hope. That celebrates the believer, the unique in all of us, and dismisses the accepted cynical nature of, again, boundaries…It’s all meant to inspire…Age confronts us with certain realities, financially, physically, intellectually, so on. This music is to forget about all of that… There are other projects that everybody has in the band, that I have—with this band it’s all about joy, celebrating the unique personalities in the band.”

Three Recordings in Twelve Months

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Todd Clouser and Gregg Schutte©Andrea Canter
Each of the trilogy of recordings has Clouser, bassist Aaron Cruz, and drummer Hernan Hecht at the core. The first installment, Twentieth Century Folk Music was recorded in Mexico City, Brooklyn and the Twin Cities with a cross-cultural octet that has become the core ensemble of A Love Electric. Despite its title, Folk Music offered interpretations of a diverse set of tunes that Clouser defined as “folkloric,” meaning “traditional music—a lot of traditional folk songs, campfire songs, whatever it may be—the melodies are all really strong,” said Todd. “That offers a great starting  point to build a tune around… really just the music of the people.”

 “Garage jazz” is how Todd described the second installment, Entre. Like Folk Music, “it’s all original too…It was recorded in the same session [as Folk Music] so there are a lot of the same players…The second record is the garage jazz idea, more influenced by 70s rock and a lot of that stuff that I absorb and fill up with and enjoy playing.” And this time, Clouser wrote all the music.

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Todd Clouser and Bryan Nichols©Andrea Canter
In planning The Naked Beat, Todd noted that “the third record is going to be more of the forward-looking record…It’s going to be a…maybe a dangerous word to use, but a ‘dance’ record. I want to make a jazz/dance record, like Sly & the Family Stone, Fresh…that hits with joy but sacrifices no artistry.” All recording and production tasks were led by producer Danny Blume at Isokon and Hidden Quarry studios in Woodstock, NY. The result, according to Clouser, is “still playful, implosive and expressive, but has evolved as we honor the broader concept of this band…vocals, often recorded in one take, naked and emotive, will be the most obvious addition.” Clouser also added a horn section led by trumpeter and frequent cohort Steven Bernstein, along with Twin Cities tenorman Brandon Wozniak and trombonist Brian Allen. “The three make a unique collection of poignant and individual voices in creative music, playing songs here you wouldn’t necessarily expect from their individual sensibilities.”

 

Clouser penned all but two tracks. Opening “Wake and Shake Your Heart” takes me back to the rock of the late 60s and 70s, a bit Rolling-Stones-ish, with repetitive phrases from the core band and a dark gravely voice from the leader with backup voices. It’s a catchy vamp and definitely dance music…. at least dance from a generation or two back. There’s even an official video of this opening track online. “Lift Me” has a bit of country wafting above the grooving undercurrent, Clouser proving himself as a seductive vocalist. “At the Night” starts close to jazz/funk, a heavy beat from strings and percussion, moving more toward modern rock as shouting vocals and screechy chords vie for attention.

 

The title track is more aggressive, the lyrics spoken more than sung, the horns and strings clashing and collaborating at the same time. It’s a “love electric.”

 

 

Todd Clouser and A Love Electric celebrate the release of The Naked Beat at 11 pm at The Icehouse, 2528 Nicollet Av in Minneapolis, cover $8; www.icehousempls.com

 

 

 



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