9.2.22: Nathan Clevenger Group @ TAC

I’m perhaps a bit rusty when it comes to promoting shows, but I do recall getting some positive feedback when I posted program notes in advance of previous gigs. Here, then, are some brief words on the pieces on the program for our show THIS FRIDAY NIGHT, at Oakland’s Temescal Arts Center (doors at 7 PM, show at 7:30 / $10-20 sliding scale / BYOB / masks & vax required, please). 

SET 1: Selections from ‘5 Memos from the New Millennium”

During the first year of Covid lockdown, I wrote a variety of pieces for musician friends to play in lockdown, either alone or with cohabitating musical partners. One of the pieces that came out of this effort was a suite in 5 movements called ‘5 Memos from the New Millennium’, dedicated to the recently deceased jazz legend, Lee Konitz, and borrowing a bit of inspiration (and names) from a series of published lectures by Italo Calvino. The pieces include allusions — some fairly clear, others likely invisible — to a handful of works by Konitz and his teacher/colleague, Lennie Tristano. One piece (“Visibility” for vibraphone) is an extremely abstract refraction of a specific early Konitz performance of the standard “You Go to My Head”, a recording that is one of my favorite pieces of music ever captured. For this performance at TAC, we will be presenting the 3 solo pieces from the suite, performed, respectively, by Mark Clifford, Beth Schenck, and Cory Wright. The full suite was recorded and released on my recent album ‘i had a dream about amnesia’, available at a Bandcamp near you.

Set 2: Nathan Clevenger Group

1. Plovers

A new piece dedicated to one of the avian world’s most delightful members, the plover (snowy or otherwise). You can encounter our titular bird hero in a variety of spots on the California coast, and I’ve had some particularly enjoyable visits with skittering flocks of these fuzzy little goons in Alameda. Observing their unison movements and general excellence inspired the rhythms of this heavily layered tune.

2. Violent Light

This is the first piece to be performed from a large ensemble suite I have been working on over the past two years. Violent Light aims to demonstrate the experience of a sufferer of periodic — thankfully, rare, in my case — ocular migraines. We’ll aim to keep it less terrifying than the actual experience, while still rendering the stages as vividly as propriety allows. Hopefully the full suite to which this piece belongs will be recorded within the year.

3. Wassilij

Wassilij is a secondary character in Arthur Koestler’s novel, Darkness at Noon. Steadfast, but battered and degraded by ever accelerating, often opportunistic and bad faith ideological schisms, he could be a bedraggled hero for our age. This piece features the shortest form I have ever composed for a NCG piece, a simple frame beset by shifting layers of counterpoint & improvisation, with allegiances among players ever-shifting.

4. Nash Hotel 2046

This is the one piece on the program that we have performed regularly before, and I have blathered on extensively about it in the past, so, this time, I’ll just note that you can check out a studio recording of the song on the Group’s 2019 album, ‘Stateless.’

5. Dead Man’s Snow Globe

A piece about negotiating the complex terrain in the wake of a death in the family, when the expected emotions are complicated and thwarted by the realities of the lived relationship. Charting the struggle between maintaining personal integrity and keeping up appearances in the wake of loss, as comforting fictions swirl and vie for false confirmation. In January 2020, we debuted this piece at our final performance before COVID shut us down, which also happened to take place at the Temescal Art Center.