TODD NELSON
Here
(Todd Nelson Music)

 

Based in Upstate New York, guitarist Todd Nelson earned his reputation by distilling and refining his big musical influences—from Chet Atkins and Julian Bream to guitar icons Metheny, McLaughlin and Martino. Todd will make a whole lotta guitar fans happy with his 2011 CD, entitled Here, and subtitled Songs For Guitar Bass And Drums. On Here, Todd gets solid backup from his trio cohorts Kyle Esposito (fretless bass) and Manuel Quintana (drums). Nelson’s trio specializes in instrumental jazz that’s not afraid to merge in elements of improvisational jazz, rock, electronics, pop, folk and gospel music. Commenting on appealing to a world wide audience with his eclectic, guitar-centric instrumental jazz-rock, Nelson states 'I hope that they recognize that it's simply good music and it doesn't matter what people call it. If it reaches you directly through your heart, or your head, or your body or some combination of these, then it's doing what music does best, and you don't need words to enjoy it.' Over the course of the seven track CD, it’s hard to put your finger on exactly what style Nelson’s trio plays in, but the wondering aspect adds to the overall enjoyment of the album. www.ToddNelsonGuitar.com


mwe3.com presents an interview with
TODD NELSON




mwe3: Your new CD Here, by your group Todd Nelson's TN3 crosses over a range of instrumental styles, from jazz fusion, mainstream jazz to surf-flecked instrumental rock and roll. How would you describe the sound of Here, what were you looking to achieve and where does the CD find you in your career at this point in time?

TN: I could describe the music as "Jazz Americana" maybe. As a listener I am more interested whether or not I like it. What it’s called is less important. My hope was that the glue that held it together was the consistent players, instrumentation and recording technique—and other intangibles like personality or the vision thing. One other thing—all of the cuts began life as vocal tunes in one way or another and were adapted for this group. The CD's unofficial subtitle is Songs for Guitar, Bass and Drums. I was trying to achieve a personal goal initially. That is, I came to realize 2 or 3 years ago that I had mainly played one role musically, as a vocal accompanist who soloed at some point in the song. I wanted to bring my playing up to another level by learning how to carry the melody, harmony and solo over more challenging changes. So I got serious. Now the challenge is to hold the group together with enough gigs, but even more so to keep the creative side as active as possible. I've written some tunes now specifically for the group. We've composed one piece together that arose out of a rehearsal jam. In order to focus on this project and to keep the band pushing its limits, I have stopped doing side gigs. And it's paid off, creatively at least. However, describing the music is an ongoing process for me. I wouldn't bother except that it's important to be able to market your music to some degree if you want to gig and get any attention.

mwe3: Who performed with you on the Here album and who else was involved with you in the recordings and composing of the music and on the production side too?

TN: My bassist, Kyle Esposito is a wonderful, creative soloist. He's also an outstanding singer/songwriter/guitarist. Manuel Quintana, the drummer grew up in Puerto Rico and also plays Latin percussion. He's got a great feel and is one of the most musical drummers I know of. The tracks were recorded at Cotton Hill in Albany. The editing and mixing was done at the Bombshelter, also in Albany. My engineer is an old friend, Ace Parkhurst. As I said, the songs all have vocals and lyrics in previous incarnations. My most recent co-writer, Pat Conover is a natural storyteller who I could give some music to, with a title, as in "Crestfallen" and he'd come up with something within a day. Then we'd tweak the words and melody a little to polish things up. Two of the other songs were co-written many years ago with Steve Cohen, my band mate in Fear Of Strangers which was a new wave band back when that was in vogue. There was an "anything goes" attitude about song writing during that era that was liberating for young musicians. I chose to redo these songs because I felt they had untapped potential as soloing vehicles.

mwe3: What guitars did you play on the Here CD? The sound is very clean and clear.

TN: The only guitar I played on the CD is a Gibson ES-137. That was part of the consistency thing and not wanting to get bogged down with too many choices to make. I have other guitars—a beat-up Les Paul that Pat gave me. a Martin 000-21, a dobro—but haven't played them much since I bought this. For years I mainly played a 1961 Melody Maker, highly customized. I bought it when I was 12. I eventually realized that it would never have the fat sound I needed. Mostly I could never afford to experiment that much. I play with a pick and my fingers. I know a relative few guitarists do this but it was a Richard Thompson interview that convinced me I could do it without much effort. I had taken classical lessons as a kid and already had some right-hand technique to incorporate for arpeggios and more pianistic stuff. But for single line jazz playing I still like a pick sound.

mwe3: What amps did you feature in the studio on Here and was there other gadgetry and sonic enhancers such as pedals and other guitar effects?

TN: The CD was recorded live in the studio with no overdubs. This was part of the personal challenge thing again. The amp was a Mesa 5/25 head with a 1-12 cab. I've since switched to a Dr Z Maz 18 Jr. I don't have engineering skills so I don't even remember what mics were used. We did take a direct out and re-amp the signal during mixing to create a fatter, more complex sound. We used Ace's Fender Blues Deluxe for that. I used a Boss Vibrato, Voodoo Labs Tremolo and Ibanez Tube Screamer on parts of the recording. Other effects were added here and there during mixing. These were mostly digital software effects. I did try to add my ring modulator to "Volts" but it was a little too much for the tune.

mwe3: What were and are some of your big musical influences, musically and guitar wise from the jazz, rock and instrumental rock world?

TN: I've been playing for a long time, so many influences have come and gone, and come back again! But starting with the ‘60s a few of the major ones are Peter Green, John McLaughlin—I wore out Devotion and my parents' patience, Clarence White—I played a lot of Country and Country Rock in the ‘70s, Ry Cooder, Lowell George—I played slide for a long time, Pat Metheny. Right now I'm listening to Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, John Scofield and anyone else in jazz, because that's the most challenging music for me. Non-guitarists who I really like to listen to are Eliane Elias, Wayne Shorter and Larry Young.

mwe3: Where did you grow up and can you say something about where you live now and how it influenced and influences your music and guitar playing?

TN: I grew up primarily in Rhode Island which is where I started playing. An older friend ran a coffeehouse in a church basement where he would produce folk and blues shows. I got to hear Duke Robillard before he called himself Duke, as well as some other players who later went on to the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Who knew there was such a strong Texas-Rhode Island connection? Also at my church, some High School kids started a concert series called "Philboid Studge" that brought in bands from Boston like The Bead Game, that had Jim Hodder (Steely Dan) on drums and lead vocals. Jeff Baxter played there too in a band called Spire. I feel like the only person who remembers this stuff. I guess there was too much mischief going on for that scene to last and it was shut down. When I was 15 we moved to Albany and I began playing the Allman Brothers. and the usual FM hits as well as The Byrds, Little Feat and on to Talking Heads and original material.

mwe3: How about some of your interests, hobbies or current causes outside of the music world?

TN: I'm a reader. Reading and doing crossword puzzles is how I relax usually. My wife and I try to get out on our bikes when the weather's nice, but we don't race or anything. I'm involved in my neighborhood association which is in the heart of Albany.

mwe3: What are you hoping that listeners take away after hearing the Here CD and can you say something about your future plans and upcoming events?

TN: I hope that they recognize that it's simply good music and it doesn't matter what people call it. If it reaches you directly through your heart, or your head, or your body or some combination of these, then it's doing what music does best, and you don't need words to enjoy it. My future plans are to record again as soon as it's viable. Manuel has a new rehearsal space where I hope we can at least develop the material, if not record it. And we're always looking for gig opportunities. We're willing and able to travel within 200 miles or so at this point. So look for us in your town!

Thanks to Todd Nelson @ www.ToddNelsonGuitar.com

 

 
   
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