7>6 or 2014: The Long Fade

Oh, hello. Thanks for dropping in. What do I have to say for myself…

Barring a last minute, irresistible gig offer, we are down to a mere 2 more gigs in 2014! Musically speaking, it’s been an exciting and expansive year and, in that spirit, we’ll be expanding to a septet on each of these gigs. Unfortunately, I most likely will need to take a little bit of a hiatus following our November gig, so please come catch us while you can. The band has been in great form on recent gigs, if I do say so myself, and it’s good to be finishing the year with 2 interesting hits, each with special significance.

(As always, please see the Gigs page for full details.)


First up, it’s our final gig at the Berkeley Arts space. Starting with our first gig there in November 2011, the Nathan Clevenger Group has played six gigs in this great room, not to mention several gigs I played with assorted special side projects. We’ve welcomed guests (Jason Levis, Lorin Benedict) and debuted a lot of new music over the years. While Bonnie Hughes has been the benevolent driving force behind this space, our main connection to the venue has always been my good friend/fountain of inspiration and sage advice, Phillip Greenlief. Phillip made it clear that this was a space where we should feel at home to experiment and develop, and it’s been an invaluable opportunity. It’s only appropriate that we’re sharing the bill on our final gig here with Phillip’s brilliant long-running trio, The Lost Trio (with Dan Seamans & Tom Hassett), a band with whom we share a long, fruitful association and who are celebrating the recent release of a great album of Monk music. Please come on out!

For our set, the regular sextet – Kasey Knudsen, Cory Wright, Aaron Novik, Sam Bevan, Jon Arkin, and me – will be joined by the masterful Jordan Glenn on vibraphone and percussion. Jordan has played drums in the band before and sat in on vibes at our Center for New Music gig in July, and this will be a chance to try out this formation (which I hope to come back to frequently going forward) for a full set.

There is one more, rather bittersweet reason that this is a significant gig: it is the final gig that Aaron Novik will be playing with us before relocating to New York. When I moved back to the Bay Area in 2003 — following my own New York stint — I had my new rhythm section in mind (having already played with original Group members Sam Bevan and Ches Smith), but I was at a loss for the 2 horns I knew I wanted. One thing I did know was that I needed a bass clarinet. I soon saw Aaron play, for the first time, subbing for Ben Goldberg on a gig by the great Graham Connah’s Jettison Slinky ensemble, and knew he was the man for the job. Aaron played on our first gig in 2003 and has been on 50 other Group gigs in the years since, which doesn’t even take into account gigs with my trio or gigs and recordings as part of his Cutting Guard, Samuel Suite, and other ensembles. I’ve played a lot of music with Aaron over the years, and we’ve talked a lot of music, talked a lot of literature, talked a lot period, shared many a meal/drink, and shamelessly violated various international wordplay treaties to the consternation of bandmates and friends. He is a brilliant composer and musician and an influence and he’ll be sorely missed. You win this round, New York…


Our first gig at Studio Grand! As a kid growing up in Oakland and frequenting the Grand Lake area, I would have been extremely skeptical if you’d told me that there would someday be a functioning creative music venue located in the heart of this neighborhood. Shows what I knew. I’ve seen some outstanding shows in this relatively new space and I’m excited to bring the band here for the first time, on a bill presented by the Oakland Freedom Jazz Society. To celebrate, we are joined by long-time fellow traveler Jason Levis on 2nd drum set and percussion! Jason — just returned from a few years in Berlin — is someone I’ve worked with for a long time in many contexts and it’s always a treat. This is the 3rd time he’s joined us on 2nd drums (you may recall his very memorable performance at our CD release gig last year) and it’s one of my favorite formations – he and Jon have a great hookup. Taking over for the departed Aaron Novik for this gig is another frequent collaborator, Aram Shelton. Aram is one of the bay area’s great reed players and I always love what he brings to the band.

Please come on out and have a listen to what we’re working on! Live music needs you and, dammit, we need you … (pause for appropriate human emotional response) … thanks for reading!

NC Septet CNM

News will out…

Hello and thanks for stopping in.

With our post-Center for New Music vacation coming to an end late this month, allow me to ramble about things to come:

On September 1st, the Nathan Clevenger Group (Kasey Knudsen, Cory Wright, Aaron Novik, Sam Bevan & Jon Arkin) will be making another appearance as part of the Makeout Monday series at the Makeout Room (in the Mission, SF). This is a long-running series and a great hang that we’re always profoundly happy to participate in. It’s always fun to hear the other bands on the bill and I’m sure this edition will be no exception.

On October 12th, we play our final gig at the Berkeley Arts space on University Ave in Berkeley, closing shop at the end of the month. This has been a great venue for us since 2011, hosting a number of gigs by the Group (including the CD release gig for our 2nd album) as well as several smaller ensembles I’ve put together (most recently the trio of Kasey, Michael Coleman and myself). All around musical master and scene lynchpin Phillip Greenlief has been unceasingly generous and supportive in bringing us into this venue and programming such great music overall. Thanks, PG!

For this last Berkeley Arts gig, the regular Group will be joined by Jordan Glenn on vibraphone for the full set! We experimented with this septet lineup on a couple of tunes at our last gig and I liked it so much that we’re going to try to make it a semi-regular thing. We’ll be playing a set of new and recent tunes and sharing a bill with the great, ever-vital Lost Trio (Greenlief/Seamans/Hassett, as you most likely know).

If that’s not enough, we’ll also be playing a fun gig at Jupiter in Berkeley on August 23rd, in a unique quintet version of the band featuring regulars Kasey Knudsen and Jon Arkin as well as Aram Shelton (clarinet & tenor sax) and Eric Perney (bass), a couple of great players, both of whom have joined us a number of times over the years. Jupiter gigs are a great chance for us to spread out over the course of 3 sets, indulge in longer solos and revisit older tunes we rarely play on other gigs. Also, beer!

I love playing sideman gigs and it’s been very much my honor to become a member – or adjunct faculty, at least – of Karl Evangelista’s Host Family this year. Karl is a phenomenal guitarist and composer and this long-running group also features the magical rhythm section of Jason Hoopes and Jordan Glenn. Every gig with this band has been an outright thrashing blast and I get my 3rd shot at Berkeley Arts on October 22nd. You should see this band!

Finally, I’m just now beginning to conceptualize and plan/budget for Nathan Clevenger Group album number 3. I’m hoping it will be done and released within the next 12 months (ambition!). The plan at the moment is for half of the album to feature the sextet while the other adds Jordan Glenn on vibes & percussion. Wish us luck and forgive us if our trespasses take the form of a crowd funding drive in the near future.

Thank you for reading.


Center for New Music videos

Here are a few videos from our July gig at the San Francisco Center for New Music — all unreleased and mostly new tunes destined for our next album, featuring Kasey Knudsen, Cory Wright, Aaron Novik, Sam Bevan, Jon Arkin, Nathan Clevenger and, on the final tune, guest Jordan Glenn:





Thanks to Lisa Mezzacappa!

Spring Was Here

Well, I missed a month. I hope that regular readers have managed to fill the gaping content hole I left with assorted journals, blogs, and shampoo bottles.

First and foremost, I want to draw your attention to part two of my exciting 3-part collaboration with Oakland artist Kim Miskowicz, a beautiful film Kim has created to accompany our song “Port o’ Nine Tails” (from Observatory). Please check it out here.

So, what’s been happening since last we talked? We’ve had 3 very special gigs, as anyone visiting this site is hopefully aware.

First, thank you to everyone who came out to our double bill with the excellent Ian Carey Quintet + 1 at The Sound Room in late May. Much to my delight and relief, this gig was a success on all fronts. It was a pleasure to play for a very healthy and engaged crowd in a wonderful space. Ian and I each brought in 3 involved new compositions for our respective bands. In an age (epicenter?) of incessant tribute project/”Plays the Music of…” blight, it felt particularly great to be a part of an evening jam-packed with new, original music presented to a respectable audience. (Far be it from us to get in the way of the local jazz scene/establishment pitching in and giving some needed attention to the music of promising up-and-comers such as Miles Davis, Prince, et al…)

Next up, at Berkeley Arts in mid-June, I debuted a new trio featuring myself, longtime collaborator Kasey Knudsen and pianist Michael Coleman. I love the way this lineup came together – performing creatively reduced versions of tunes from my sextet book and some rarely-played older tunes for previous smaller ensembles – and I am dedicated to making it happen more in the future, even though Michael is moving to New York (a blow to the band, the local scene and the local jazz baseball league). Stay tuned…

The 3rd gig might have been the biggest of them all…a night of my music for several ensembles as part of the San Francisco Center for New Music’s “Best Coast Composer Series” just this past weekend. I presented a series of solo winds pieces played by Cory Wright, a brand new extended work for improvising quartet (featuring Cory, vibraphonist/drummer Jordan Glenn, bassist Sam Bevan, and myself on piano and guitar), and a full set of new and recent music by my eponymous sextet with Jordan guesting on several tunes. I hope you were there and, if not, hope to have some videos up soon. It was a great night and a great honor. I can’t thank the members of my sextet enough for their incredible work, dedication and good humor over so many years, gigs, and on this night: Sam Bevan (bass since 2003), Aaron Novik (clarinets since 2003), Kasey Knudsen (alto sax since 2007), Jon Arkin (regular drummer since 2010, playing with us as far back as 2005), and Cory Wright (reeds galore since 2012). It’s overwhelming to have such talented people bringing the music and band to life and elevating everything year after year. Thank you!

After all of this activity, I am dedicated to pretty much taking the rest of this month and August off (barring any sideman gigs you may feel like offering me). I’ll be back in this space with tales of the things to come early next month, so please do check back. In the meantime, the calendar page has the basic facts re: our upcoming gigs. One thing to note: the October gig will feature Jordan playing vibraphone for the whole set!

Thanks for reading. Hope to see you at a gig.


In Which I Call in Reinforcements

My pledge to update my website news every month is a harsh mistress, it turns out…last day of the month and another short and semi-sweet entry.

Item no. 1:

May 23rd, my Group is playing a double bill with Ian Carey’s Quintet +1 at Oakland’s Sound Room (see the Gigs page for complete info)! Ian is a local composer for whom I have the highest respect…he’s one of those people who pushes every composer who hears his music to try harder, dig deeper, and get serious, already. He also has great taste in musicians (in a perhaps related bit of news, we share several band members). I’m incredibly excited about this gig. We’ll be playing an unusually long set with 3 brand new tunes and a lot of recent music. Ian and his band will be amazing — trust me. Please don’t miss this night!

Item no. 2:

“A life confined to what is personal is likely, sooner or later, to become unbearably painful; it is only by windows into a larger and less fretful cosmos that the more tragic parts of life become endurable.” – Bertrand Russell, In Praise of Idleness

Item no. 3:

I recently released — sort of — an album of music I created for a podcast a couple years ago. The album — Stern Birds — is a one-man-band affair and is insanely low-fi. Every bit of it was recorded in my apartment. While my normal music matches elaborately conceived and neurotically detailed written material with some of the finest improvisers alive, this music was created off-the-cuff and performed by a man with minimal command over many of the instruments involved. Soooo, if you’re still curious, you can download the album from my bandcamp page. It’s free, but you can also elect to pay me for it!

Item no. 4:

 “River”, by Frank O’Hara (from Meditations in an Emergency):

Whole days would go by, and later their years,
while I thought of nothing but its darkness
drifting like a bridge against the sky.
Day after day I dreamily sought its melancholy,
its searchings, its soft banks enfolded me,
and upon my lengthening neck its kiss
was murmuring like a wound. My very life
became the inhalation of its weedy ponderings
and sometimes in the sunlight my eyes,
walled in water, would glimpse the pathway
to the green sea. For it was there I was being borne.
Then for a moment my strengthening arms
would cry out upon the leafy crest of air
like whitecaps, and lightning, swift as pain,
would go through me on its way to the forest,
and I’d sink back upon the brutal tenderness
that bore me on, that held me like a slave
in its liquid distances of eyes, and one day,
though weeping for my caresses, would abandon me,
moment of infinitely salty air! Sun fluttering
like a signal! Upon the open flesh of the world.

Lost and Found

Just making it in time for a March update and it’s going to be a quick one:


On April 9th we are back at the Berkeley Arts space (downtown; 2133 University Avenue) for a double bill with The Lost Trio (Phillip Greenlief, Dan Seamans and Tom Hassett). We first shared a bill with this eminent trio back in 2004 and I’m glad these bills have been a regular feature over the past decade. We’ll be playing 1 set of new and recent music, including (I think) 3 debuts. Jon Arkin is out of town, so the regular band (Kasey Knudsen, Cory Wright, Aaron Novik and Sam Bevan) will be joined by the brilliant drummer Jordan Glenn, always a treat. Show is at 8 – hope to see you there.


Speaking of the Berkeley Arts space, I’ve just gotten around to posting 4 videos from our CD release gig back in October. Most of these feature an expanded edition of the band, supplemented by guest 2nd drummer Jason Levis. Check them out if you like:


O Syracuse

Mornings in Feudal Japan

Dia de los Monos

Things We Kept from the Fire


Next up is a double bill with the incredible trumpet player/composer Ian Carey at the Sound Room in May! More on that soon.



Critical Engagement / Critical Engagements

Ahhh February…as the saying goes, it comes in like a common grackle and goes out like a lion, passing the leonine baton to March, naturally. Enough science. This is about music.


The most exciting news since we last checked in was an extremely nice — not to mention uncommonly perceptive — review from distinguished Bay Area music scribe Andrew Gilbert. Andrew reviewed our new album, Observatory, on the KQED (NPR) program The California Report. You can read or listen to the review here at their site. It’s easily the best and most insightful review I’ve ever had the pleasure to receive — Andrew’s got ‘big ears’, as they say. As if that were not enough, Mr. Gilbert also did us the honor of citing us as one of his ‘Top Local Bands’ on a ‘Bands to Watch in 2014’ edition of KQED’s Forum.


We’re off in March and coming back with a gig on April 9th at the Berkeley Arts space and I hope you’ll come out for what promises to be a special night. The regular band (Kasey Knudsen, Cory Wright, Aaron Novik, Sam Bevan) is joined by genius drummer Jordan Glenn (subbing for Jon Arkin), always a treat. We’ll be sharing the bill with The Lost Trio (divisible to the following component parts: Phillip Greenlief, Dan Seamans and Tom Hassett), one of the bay area’s most long-running and respected working ensembles. Phillip is someone I consider an inspiration, a friend and a valued mentor in so many ways. Dan was a member of New Klezmer Trio, whose “Melt Zonk Rewire” album was a pivotal one for me when I discovered it as a callow collegiate chump. Tom, Dan and Phillip have a deep musical bond and, between their excellence and my own history with them, you can imagine what an honor it is to share a bill, as we have many times over the years. (In fact, the west coast Nathan Clevenger Group’s 2nd gig ever, back in 2004, was a double-bill with the Lost Trio at the late, lamented Jazz House.)


A couple of the plans that I’ve been cagily alluding to on this site for the past couple months are taking shape and can now be discussed in more detail:


We have set up a double-bill with the sextet of composer/trumpeter Ian Carey! The gig is on May 23rd at the Sound Room in Oakland. Ian is one of my favorite local composers and someone I’m always inspired by — I daresay we share a lot of the same preoccupations, musically, and he’s way ahead of the curve in so many ways. We also share a few band members so it should be an interesting contrast! I can’t wait.


Kim Miskowicz (brilliant artist and the woman behind the “Observatory” album art) and I are collaborating on 2 film/music projects this year, featuring new music and music from my most recent album. More information soon, but we’re hoping they’ll be done and ready to premiere by early fall.


Thank you for visiting and for reading. Until March,




Visual Aid

band at awaken 2014

The band at Awaken Cafe, Oakland, 2/6/14. Aaron Novik, Cory Wright, Nathan Clevenger, Kasey Knudsen, Sam Bevan and Jon Arkin.

Greetings from 2014

My intention is to post at least one update per month here this year…if we get into a particularly fallow news period, prepare yourself for such informative and exhilarating scholarly missives as “Double-flats: Fact or Fiction?”, “My 10 Favorite Words”, “Is it Possible to Fill out a Successful Grant Application Without Using the Word ‘Community’ Once?: An Investigative Report”, and “My 10 Least Favorite Single-Digit Numbers, In No Particular Order.”


Lucky for you, dear reader, I do have some actual news to impart this month, so I’ll save the filibluster for a later date.


First of all, our new album, Observatory, received a very kind review from the Memory Select blog (thanks, Craig!) – check it out here, if you’re curious and/or nasty. We were also given an extremely flattering mini-review from the great local trumpeter/composer Ian Carey on his blog – damn! Thank you! (Added bonus: Ian’s ‘Arrangers’ list hipped me to awesome new-to-me records by Clare Fischer and Michael McGinnis.)


The Nathan Clevenger Group is working on a few rather unusual gigs (more on this soon, I hope!), so we’re going light on the regular club dates while we get the calendar clarified…all the more reason to catch us at Oakland’s own Awaken Café on February 6th! The sextet (Kasey Knudsen, Cory Wright, Aaron Novik, Sam Bevan, Jon Arkin and me) will be playing 2 sets of original music, heavily focused on new material (7 pm start-time, no cover). I’ve had a prolific few months and we’ll be adding another handful of new tunes to the stack of pieces we premiered at our last 2 gigs. Our January Makeout Room gig featured only 1 tune from either of our albums and it looks like this next gig will probably follow the same pattern, mixing tunes destined for album no. 3, new music, and a few older unrecorded favorites. I hope you’ll be curious to check out our new offerings in person.


In very exciting extracurricular-activity-type news, March 15 will apparently see me putting on the sideman hat for a gig with Karl Evangelista’s Host Family. Karl is an extraordinary guitarist, composer and font of new music/jazz knowledge and it’s an honor to play with this group. It doesn’t hurt that the band is filled out by Jordan Glenn (one of my very favorite drummers and composers) and Jason Hoopes (an outstanding bassist who has subbed in my band and has a fascinating catalog of original work). The gig is at the Center for New Music in San Francisco and is part of an evening honoring Karl’s extensive and inspiring ouvre as a composer – a number of his projects will be featured.


Finally, it’s too soon for many details, but I am happy to report that work is getting under way on the next stage of my collaboration – excuse me, MULTIMEDIA collaboration (hello Grant review panels!) – with artist Kim Miskowicz. More soon on this and some other projects/plots slowly taking shape – suffice it to say that plans are congealing.


I am reminded of one my very favorite song titles, courtesy genius composer/pianist/Admiral Graham Connah: “Everything That Oozes Must Congeal.”


I leave you thusly.



2013, We Hardly Knew You

First and foremost, let’s spend some time dwelling on the future:

For our first two gigs of 2014, the Nathan Clevenger Group will be returning to our favorite running series and our favorite venue, respectively, playing the great Makeout Monday series at the Makeout Room on 1/6 and then Oakland’s own Awaken Café on 2/6! We are hoping to add a 3/6 date as well, not only because of our all-too-human — and all-too-butterfly — attraction to symmetry but also, of course, to seal our pact with Satan (what, you thought our massive success was due to mere human effort???). I’m not yet sure who is on the bill with us at the Makeout gig, but the lineups are always great. There’s even a rumor going around that percussionist Jason Levis will be on the bill, so maybe we’ll get to dip back into the double-drummer action last seen at our CD release gig a couple months ago.


But we came here to talk about 2013. 2013 was…uh…it was a year! We played more gigs than we’ve ever played in a single year – 11 (don’t fret, I’ll be disappearing a bit further down the useless trivia wormhole at the end of this post) – and released our 2nd album, Observatory. Thank you to everyone who came out to see us this year and to all of the bold club owners and series curators who invited us out to play.


Most of all, I want to very sincerely thank everyone who played in the group this year. From long-time band members to one-gig subs, it is extraordinarily humbling to consider the talented cast of characters who brought my music to life in 2013: Kasey Knudsen, Jon Arkin, Cory Wright, Sam Bevan, Rebecca Kleinmann, Aaron Novik, Marcus Stephens, Evan Francis, Mitch Marcus, Eric Perney, Doug Stuart, Eric Vogler, Jason Hoopes, Jordan Glenn and Jason Levis. They really are the best and genuinely lovely, hilarious folks, one and all. All of these amazing musicians are involved with a rich assortment of great projects of their own, and I hope you’re familiar with their work. If you’re not, you’ll be in for a much-enhanced 2014 if you follow these threads (and the links embedded above)!


Back to the future (to reference, obviously, the awesome song by the late, lamented PDX band The Joggers) or, as we call it these days, ‘2014.’ Things we are looking forward to include but are not limited to:


– The aforementioned gigs: 1.6 at the Makeout Room and 2.6 at Awaken Café! Please come on out if you’re able – audience turnout is truly the difference between still having a few places left to play this type of music in the future and ceding the field entirely. With the creeping efforts to turn SF as a whole into the Marina-meets-Ayn Rand and Oakland into some sort of twee JV Williamsburg, this kind of preservation strikes me as more crucial than ever, even aside from my glaring self-interest. More to the point, if you saw our final gig of 2013 you’ll know that we’ve just started to unleash a batch of new compositions that I, for one, am very excited about. Please join us…we require no loyalty oaths and limited feeding

– Putting some time into the ever-more-complex but essential task of securing reviews and radio play for Observatory. Not to mention selling some more copies (feel free to contribute to that last part).

– Getting to work on album no. 3. I hate to make predictions, given the unpredictability and financial hang-ups that always bedevil and delay this type of project, but we have more than enough material ready to record and I’m hoping to get started on this recording in 2014. I want to get another physical-media release out before it becomes COMPLETELY (rather than mostly) insane to do so, as I’m just not sure I’m going to care much about releasing albums once we’re all living in the cloud (a holiday ‘Fuck You!’ to Apple for nixing disc drives from their recent laptops and thus speeding the inevitable).


Some More Nebulous But Still Fomenting Plots:

– A multimedia collaboration with Kim Miskowicz, the brilliant artist behind the paintings that grace the Observatory CD?

– A double-bill with one of my favorite local bandleader/composers?

– A return to the east? (BIG ‘maybe’ on this item)?


Thanks, all!


Yours in Eternal Hubris,




*   *   *   *   *   *


Apocrypha, a.k.a. Shamefully Pointless Analysis

We played 11 gigs (vs. 8 gigs in 2012)

We performed 31 original songs (29 in 2012)

We debuted 10 pieces (7 in 2012)


3 Most Performed Compositions:

1. The Irreconcilables (11)

2. Things We Kept from the Fire (10)

3. Mornings in Feudal Japan (9)


Personnel (gigs played this year / NCG gigs played overall):

  • Kasey Knudsen (10 / 41)
  • Jon Arkin (9 / 34)
  • Cory Wright (9 / 11)
  • Sam Bevan (7 / 45)
  • Rebecca Kleinmann (5 / 8)
  • Aaron Novik (2 / 45)
  • Marcus Stephens (2 / 2)
  • Mitch Marcus (1 / 21)
  • Evan Francis (1 / 8)
  • Eric Perney (1 / 7)
  • Jason Levis (1 / 3)
  • Eric Vogler (1 / 2)
  • Doug Stuart (1 / 1)
  • Jason Hoopes (1 / 1)
  • Jordan Glenn (1 / 1)