Nathan Clevenger is an Oakland-bred and -based composer and guitarist/keyboardist, working on the margins of jazz, modern classical, and free improvisation.
Since 2003, Nathan’s main musical outlet has been the cryptically-titled Nathan Clevenger Group. The group has performed over 150 original compositions and recorded 3 albums, including Stateless, scheduled to be released in 2019. Gigs of note include appearances at the Switchboard Music Festival, SF Friends of Chamber Music SFMusic Day, and the SF Center for New Music’s Best Coast Composer Series (in a program also featuring premiere of the extended quartet piece “The Seamless Sea”). The Group is comprised of Kasey Knudsen (alto sax), Cory Wright (tenor sax, clarinet), Rachel Condry (clarinets), Lisa Mezzacappa (bass), Jon Arkin (drums), Jason Levis (drums/percussion), and Tim DeCillis (vibraphone).
Clevenger is also involved in composing and recording music for film in collaboration with violinist/composer Kristina Dutton. Their evening length multimedia work Ice Hours — created in collaboration with visual artists Kim Miskowicz and Camille Seaman and supported by a Fleishhacker Foundation grant — was premiered at San Francisco’s Exploratorium in March 2019. Clevenger and Dutton’s work has focused heavily on science education and has been presented at the UC Berkeley’s Vision + Light symposium and the LAST Science and Art Technology Festival.
Other active ensembles include the avant chamber ensemble Ashen Cleric (with Crystal Pascucci, Cory Wright, Jordan Glenn, and Tim DeCillis), the sci-fi-chamber-rock band Elective Infinities (w Sarah Zaharako, Eric Perney, Phillip Greenlief and Robert Lopez), and the ever-mutating quartet project Book of Exits. In addition to continuing to produce works for a growing book of chamber music, Nathan has also been honored to collaborate with Bay Area jazz luminaries and groups, including Aaron Novik (Cutting Guard, “The Samuel Suite”, etc), Karl Evangelista (as part of the Host Family quartet), Phillip Greenlief, Jason Levis (Joseph’s Bones), Lisa Mezzacappa, and Jordan Glenn, and Mitch Marcus.
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“Drawing on orchestral jazz concepts pioneered by Duke Ellington, Sun Ra and Gil Evans, (Clevenger) revels in coaxing a kaleidoscopic array of voicings from the band, writing extended dreamscapes that unfold with their own quirky internal logic.” – Andrew Gilbert, KQED’s California Report (NPR)
“(Clevenger is a) fascinating composer. Long-form, dreamy, sectional without being rigid, and bluesy — albeit in a non-traditional way.” – Rachel Swan, East Bay Express
Clevenger’s writing takes a lot from the swing era, but it’s packed with odd time signatures, twisty compositions, and passages of improvisation that go well beyond the old concept of a solo. You don’t get the breakneck tempos of bebop, but neither is the music frozen in the ’40s; the writing is fresh, and the musicians are given free rein to turn things upside-down. Peppy, often pretty, and just a little weird. – Craig Matsumoto, Memory Select
Have you ever gotten a foreign film that maybe you weren’t sure about, but then it ripped your face off, and it was the coolest thing you ever saw, and it somehow synthesized straight-up literary frumpiness with avant-gardeness and unexpected twists and you were at the edge of your seat the whole time but then, afterwards, you couldn’t find anyone else who had ever heard of it? That’s pretty much what their music is like. – Rick Stinson, The Little Black Egg