Todd Clouser prefers bridges to walls.
The jazz and rock guitarist is a native of Minneapolis who has lived in Mexico for a decade, the last four years in Mexico City.
“It’s definitely a trying time and I think that just inspires us,” Clouser told Tahoe Onstage before the start of a U.S. tour up the West Coast and into the Midwest.
“We need to do even more to just collaborate and create things between cultures so people see what’s real between us. Music’s always a good way to do that and it allows us to get into different communities and cultures and make friends and make things happen. That’s the way I’m taking it.”
Last month, Clouser performed in Japan and China and later this winter will make his annual two-week tour across Europe. In between, he will perform with a trio at the intimate venue in Meyers, The Divided Sky, for the first time since 2013. He then will play shows on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 2-3, at Moody’s Bistro in Truckee.
Clouser has two primary bands: the rather visceral A Love Electric and a [pullquote]I think a lot of this anger and anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States comes out naivety, fear and sensationalism.”[/pullquote]more cerebral trio, which simply goes by the bandleader’s name, Todd Clouser. The latter is making the current U.S. swing and includes keyboardist Galen Clark of Portland, Oregon, and Mexico City drummer Hernan Hecht, who also plays in A Love Electric.
When told his music is hard to define, Clouser says, “Thank you.” While he is fluent in two languages, Clouser disdainfully struggles with the word “genre.”
“I can’t really describe what I like with any sound so I just kind of rebel against that and take it even further,” he said. “What I’m really interested is songs and telling stories.”
Clouser started music in his family’s basement, where he and his drummer brother both sang and played rock songs. Clouser, a guitarist, was a big fan of Jimi Hendrix. He focused on jazz while studying songwriting at Berklee College of Music in Boston. A Love Electric’s early albums were instrumental. But with encouragement from bandmates Hecht and Aaron Cruz, he has incorporated vocals, singing and speaking into conventional and harmonica microphones. Clouser is clearly influenced by beat poetry and songs are decidedly unconventional.
On Friday, Jan. 19, Ropeadope Records digitally released “Clouser/Medeski/Bates: You The Brave, Live at Icehouse,” the songs on which will be performed on this tour. John Medeski, a keyboardist who, like Clouser, has an affection for the avant garde, is best known for his band Medeski Martin & Wood. JT Bates is a drummer who for 20 years has hosted JT’s Jazz Implosion at 11 p.m. on Monday nights in Minneapolis. The live record was cut the second year Clouser, Medeski and Bates performed at the weekly show.
Clouser took lessons and attended workshops with Medeski and Billy Martin, and in recent years they have become peers and friends. Clouser has helped arrange and share shows in Mexico with Medeski Martin & Wood.
Clouser’s Ropeadope Records is based in Philadelphia. He also has Ropeadope Records Sur in Mexico, which has documented music in a way similar to ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax, whose 1937-42 Archive of American Folk Song is preserved in the Library of Congress.
The first recordings made were by Los Cardencheros de Sapioriz, an a capela quartet of octogenarians who are descendants of indigenous slaves.
“They are tough-looking ranchers, very stoic, and they sang beautiful, heart-wrenching songs,” Clouser said. “It was a very emotional experience.”
Ropeadope Sur also recorded La Pingo’s Orqeusta and the Juan Pablo Arredondo Trio in Mexico and Loli Molina, an artist from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Hecht’s native country.
Clouser said he has been more surprised by President Trump and his supporters’ anti-immigration stance than Mexico residents have been. However, he said, as an American, he has not experienced any ill will from Mexicans.
“I don’t know if I was just naive to these things because I thought we had moved on and grown,” he said. “Mexicans are good at separating the madness of the politics from the actual people. I’m treated well.
“I think a lot of this anger and anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States comes out naivety, fear and sensationalism. I am fortunate to work with people from different communities all over Mexico. I want to share my experiences and what these people are really like and how they receive me. That’s what I am trying to do with these different bands and philanthropic projects.”
– Tim Parsons
- Todd Clouser
When: 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1
Where: The Divided Sky, Meyers
Band: Todd Clouser, guitar; Hernan Hecht, drums; Galen Clark, keyboards
Where else: Moody’s Bistro on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 2-3