Todd Clouser's A Love Electric: 20th Century Folk Selections (2012)
More than rock musicians and more than blues artists, jazz musicians carry the greatest burden of musical legacy. There are not stories about a contemporary rock musician who dedicates his career to mastering The Beatles catalog, or of the one who's playing is paralyzed because she cannot deal with Jimi Hendrix's solos. Nope. Only in jazz does the legacy of the past pose obstacles so large as Art Tatum, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane that many contemporary musicians can never scale the mountain and forge their own paths. Some say that happened when jazz stopped being our music and became art music.
Guitarist Todd Clouser hopes to reverse all of that thinking with A Love Electric, a band that is rediscovering rock, funk, and pop as jazz music, and most importantly, jazz as folk music. This disc follows A Love Electric (Rope-A-Dope, 2010) with a celebration of "The Peoples'" music. Where his previous disc only had one cover, Harry Nilsson's "One" (made famous by Three Dog Night), here all the tracks are covers. On this first disc of a three-part series of folkloric music, the music is exactly what jazz once was. Remember when songs from Tin Pan Alley and Broadway were mined to serve as a launch pad for jazz?
Their modern launch takes in Pearl Jam's "Release," Nirvana's "All Apologies," and the Beastie Boys' "Gratitude." The key to Clouser's success is the lack of campiness. Lou Reed's mini-masterpiece "Heroin," written for Velvet Underground, is delivered with the crazed crescendo of the original; Adam Meckler's trumpet gives voice to Clouser's guitar. As with most instrumental jazz, that voice is a soloist. Clouser invites fellow band leader and trumpeter Steven Bernstein to sit in on Buddy Holly's "Everyday." They lay out a relaxed cover that smooths the rockabilly into something closer to surfer music. Not so with Neil Young's "The Needle & The Damage Done." Clouser maintains the sorrow of addiction here, much like the early work of Bill Frisell.
Clouser's music reinvests jazz in the traditions of modern folk music, and it is about time.
Track Listing: Little Boxes; Everyday; The Needle & The Damage Done; Pay Me My Money Down; All Apologies; Heroin; Gratitude; Release.
Personnel: Todd Clouser: guitars, Rhodes piano; Mark Aanderud: piano; Aaron Crus: bass; Hernan Hecht: drums; Adam Mackler: trumpet; Bryan Nichols: Rhodes piano; Rick Parker: trombone; Cyro Baptista; percussion; Steven Bernstein: trumpet (2); Greg Schute: percussion (6).
Record Label: The Royal Potato Family