Todd Clouser – Todd Clouser’s A Love Electric (2010)

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Fusion guitarist and Berklee grad Todd Clouser splits his residency between the frigid climes of Minneapolis, MN and the balmy, seaside vistas of Los Cabos, Mexico at the tip of the Baja California peninsula. Like scenery, Clouser enjoys contrasts in his music, too. After fronting a number of rock bands, tackles jazz on his third release, Todd Clouser’s A Love Electric, but does so informed with other styles. He’s studied with Marc Ribot, David Fiuczynski, Medeski, Martin and Wood, and several other guitar-playing luminaries. Nowadays, Clouser teaches others: instead of spending his time at Cabos selling tequila or hot sauce as a couple of well-known rock stars have been known to do, he gives his time to local non-profits in the form of performances and clinics, and his own Arts Day Out non-profit program designed to help and inspire the young people of Los Cabos.

Although Clouser has plenty of background to make a “guitar” record, A Love Electric is more about crafting a style and a mood than the mere execution of chops (although the chops are still there). For this project, he assembled a fairly large ensemble that includes Gordy Johnson (bass), Greg Schutte (drums), Bryan Nichols (Rhodes), Julio de la Cruz (piano), Jason Craft (Hammond B3 organ), Adam Linz (bass), Kelly Rossum, and Steve Bernstein (trumpet). Bernstein is a major musician, composer and bandleader himself, as we found out when examining his We Are MTO album a couple of years ago.

Clouser goes for a circa-1970 psychedelic pop-jazz groove—one tune is even titled “Brass Suite 1970”—that recalls similar albums from that time frame, like Quincy Jones’ Walking In Space and Herbie Hancock’s Fat Albert Rotunda as well as some liked-minded contemporaries such as the groovy-jazz band from San Francisco, Mushroom. “Serenity Now” sets that tone with an easy-going groove where Clouser arrangements has him alternately playing off the horns and with them. The tune nearly breaks down into free jazz in the middle of it before regrouping and finds its groove again; signaling that Clouser doesn’t intend to play it safe. But he picks and chooses his spots to spring any surprises.

There’s also more explicit nods to stars of that past era; “Curtis” salutes Curtis Mayfield, who was not only adept and constructing memorable, sophisticated grooves, but was one of the few RnB giants to do so from the perspective of a guitarist. As the only song not penned by Clouser, the 1969 Three Dog Night hit “One” is covered relatively straight, allowing the strength of Harry Nilsson’s composition to shine through, although Clouser raises the intensity for a moment with a firmly rockin’ solo.

There’s a few nice diversions that mixes things up. “The Border At Pachacan” is a party Latin jazz in the style of Pancho Sanchez, and “Bobby White In The City” is red-hot bebop with a crisp, theme that skillfully dances the dividing line between harmonious and dissonant. The lilting ballad “Jimena” contains some invested licks from Clouser as well as an appropriately light horn arrangement. “Littlest Number” is a lot like what you’d hear from John Scofield when he gets into his Big Easy mode.

Even with all these variations of approaches, the songs string together well, a cohesion that springs from Clouser’s intelligent arrangements and a band that’s flexible enough to handle whatever Clouser’s songs call for in a consistent way. Oh yeah, and that early 70’s vibe, too. For fusion that marries solid songs to a melting pot of idioms that are multi-faceted and yet easy to absorb, this record is a recommended choice.

Todd Clouser’s A Love Electric was self-released last September 28. Visit Clouser’s website here.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron

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