in Upstate New York, guitarist Todd Nelson earned his reputation by
distilling and refining his big musical influencesfrom 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). Nelsons trio specializes in instrumental jazz thats
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, its
hard to put your finger on exactly what style Nelsons trio plays
in, but the wondering aspect adds to the overall enjoyment of the
mwe3.com presents an interview with
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?
I could describe the music as "Jazz Americana" maybe. As
a listener I am more interested whether or not I like it. What its
called is less important. My hope was that the glue that held it together
was the consistent players, instrumentation and recording techniqueand
other intangibles like personality or the vision thing. One other
thingall 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 guitarsa beat-up Les
Paul that Pat gave me. a Martin 000-21, a dobrobut 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
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 McLaughlinI wore out
Devotion and my parents' patience, Clarence WhiteI played
a lot of Country and Country Rock in the 70s, Ry Cooder, Lowell
GeorgeI 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
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
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
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.
What are you hoping that listeners take away after hearing the Here
CD and can you say something about your future plans and upcoming
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