On February 20th, I will be premiering a new extended piece for quartet at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. Much more soon on what this is all about, but please mark your calendars for a one-of-a-kind performance.

Stateless and Ice Hours

Unposted and/or abandoned drafts of website news updates from the past few months litter my many, many notebooks…now hopelessly out of date, lost, and coffee-stained. It’s time to accept that I’m not going to find the time for the kind of witty and flowing prose I’d prefer to offer any time soon, so I might as well just drop a few bits of hopefully helpful news and leave it at that for now:


The Nathan Clevenger Group has finished the basic tracks for our 3rd album, Stateless. In May, I will return to the studio for a couple key overdubs (including appearances from a very special guest) and a whole lotta mixing. I am so pleased with the album; I think it is the best musical things I’ve ever been part of. I can’t wait for the world to hear the incredible playing of Kasey Knudsen, Jon Arkin, Cory Wright, Jason Levis, Rachel Condry, Lisa Mezzacappa, and Tim DeCillis and the masterful engineering of John Finkbeiner. I’m hoping to have this wrapped and out this summer; more soon.


March 7th saw the debut of the extended multimedia work Ice Hours at San Francisco’s Exploratorium. The piece features music composed by me and Kristina Dutton, original visuals by Camille Seaman, and video editing/manipulation by Kim Miskowicz; for the debut, the score was performed by Kristina, Sarah Jo Zaharako, Eric Perney, Jordan Glenn, Tim DeCillis, Majel Connery, and yours truly. We subsequently recorded a studio version of most of the score and the film + recorded music is on display at the Exploratorium now through mid-May; go check it out, if you’re curious. I think we’ll be releasing the score in some form sooner or later; I’m happy with how it came out.


Earlier this week, I played a show w the latest version of my shape-shifting Book of Exits ensemble. Formed to have a small unit that can perform new music and arrangements of pieces from the books of all of my various bands, and to have an excuse to reunite w Aaron Novik whenever he is in town, the latest version featured Kasey Knudsen, Cory Wright, and Jon Arkin; we also played a gig in December with Cory, Jon, and Aaron.


What’s next, beyond releasing some records? I dunno. Got a gig for me?



Band of Record

The Nathan Clevenger Group, following our 1.15.19 performance at the California Jazz Conservatory’s new Rendon Hall, and a couple days prior to heading into New, Improved Recording to track album number 3.


Boulez on Debussy

Boulez on my hero Debussy — expressing my own thoughts on/general approach to composition about as well as I can imagine:

(From Stephen Walsh’s new Debussy: A Painter in Sound.)

Happy birthday, Charles Mingus!

You taught me how to read.

And, judging by an item I saw in the ‘More Than a Fakebook’ publication that was the corporeal vector through which this dubious posthumous pedagogy was accomplished — in many a late night, technically-illegally commandeered UCSC music building piano room — you also taught a tuxedo cat how to use a human toilet.

My tuxedo cat is currently choking down 1/4 pill of cat Valium just to get through the day, so, once again, Maestro Mingus wins the day.

Mingus. As one of my other musical heroes, Graham Connah, memorably pointed out in (online) print some years ago, the jazz world at large is still struggling to catch up with and assimilate the advanced and bottomless ensemble practices that Mingus had firmly established by the early 60s. To say nothing of the seemingly unfussy way he understood and rejected the false binary of ‘earthy vs intellectual.’

There is no musician who has meant more to me in terms of clarifying my own musical priorities and preoccupations. Like a great critic, even the areas in which I push back against or reject his concepts serve to illuminate.

To, much too late, cut through all the earlier impromptu-yet-long winded verbiage, when I was a teenager, I thought that Goodbye Porkpie Hat was the most beautiful tune ever written & recorded. and that the 1964 Mingus Group w Dolphy/Byard/Richmond/Jordan/Coles was the best band that ever lived. As opposed to most everything else I thought at that point in my life, I am pretty sure that I still stand by these assessments.

Thank you, Maestro Mingus. And, for the love of god, please apologize to Jimmy Knepper!

A Guide for the Perplexed

April and June are going to be busy (by my standards) gigging months, so I thought I’d lay out the basic details here, for those keeping score at home – I hope to see you out and about at one of more of these performances:



NATHAN CLEVENGER GROUP (unabridged, unwieldy critical edition)

@ Studio Grand, Oakland – 9:30 PM

Kasey Knudsen (alto sax), Cory Wright (tenor sax/clarinet/flute), Rachel Condry (Bb & bass clarinets), Lisa Mezzcappa (bass), Jon Arkin (drums), Jason Levis (drums/percussion), Tim DeCillis (vibes/percussion), and Nathan Clevenger (compositions/guitar)


APRIL 18th

NATHAN CLEVENGER GROUP (vintage chapbook edition — frequently lost on public transit)

@ Jupiter, Berkeley – 8 PM

Kasey Knudsen (alto sax), TBD (bass, aspirational corporeality), Jon Arkin (drums), NC (guitar/compositions)


JUNE 2nd


@ The Octopus Literary Salon, Oakland – 7 PM

Cory Wright (tenor sax/alto flute), Crystal Pascucci (cello), Jordan Glenn (drums/accordion/perucssion), Tim DeCillis (vibes/percussion), NC (guitar/percussion/compositions)


JUNE 16th

NATHAN CLEVENGER GROUP (poncy trade paper novella edition)

@ Jupiter, Berkeley – 8 PM

Kasey Knudsen (alto sax), Cory Wright (tenor sax/clarinet(s)/flute), Lisa Mezzacappa (bass), Jon Arkin (drums), NC (guitar/compositions)

La Que Suena

A piece of original music composed and performed by Kristina Dutton and myself functions as the score to the first edition of a short film series created by Labocine. This film is directed by Alexis Gambis. I’ve attached a short preview (also scored by a bit of our music) — the full short can currently be viewed by subscribers at https://www.labocine.com — their focus is on the intersection and interaction of science and the arts, so, as you can imagine, we’re very happy to be involved! More to come…

The Future, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down

Greetings, people of 2018.


The big news of the year in my musical world is the debut (2/5 at the Makeout Room) of my new ensemble, Ashen Cleric. The band includes Crystal Pascucci, Jordan Glenn, Cory Wright, and Tim DeCillis, all players I’ve been a fan of for a long time. I’ve had the privilege of playing with each of them in different configurations over the years, but the results of this mix of personalities addressing this new book of music feels distinct and, dare I say, new. Dark, open, prickly chamber music. I’m really looking forward to digging deeper and playing more – I hope to have more news on that front soon.


For the moment, the 2018 calendar is blank, other than plans to record the 3rd Nathan Clevenger Group album this spring. How will said album be released? How much do I want to tilt at windmills in terms and how effectively can I deny or forestall the dying of the physical media light? Time will tell. You’ll hear it here first, even though I also hear that personal websites are on the way out as well. Ahhh, the future.


More in time.

When 10 musicians is just not enough…

Too busy for more exhaustive blather, but here’s a quick note:


Tonight – 11/3/17 — is the night and Berkeley’s California Jazz Conservatory is the place. The great trumpeter/composer Ian Carey and I present lots of original music for our respective groups and then combine forces for 2 debut pieces for the collected 11-piece ensemble.


Tickets and full info here.


A preview from Berkeleyside scribe Andrew Gilbert here.


You can imagine how hard it is getting all of these in-demand players in one place at one time, so you know this may be a one-time thing! Why miss it and risk the cruel mockery of your peers and community? What better way to spend a fall evening than with an espresso (or your drink of choice) and live music at the California Jazz Conservatory?


Also, I’m happy to report that a film project featuring an original score by yours truly and my musical partner in crime Kristina Dutton was awarded runner-up in the ‘Scientific Merit Award’ category at the Imagine Film Festival (for the film that “best exemplifies science in storytelling and narrative filmmaking in a compelling, credible and inspiring manner”). Congrats to Nipam Patel. Go, squid(s), go!


Up next:


Probably news re: a new ensemble and hopefully some more news for my ongoing film music collaboration with Kristina.

Enter the Lion (March News)

Thanks for stopping by for a quick dose of news re: happenings recent and ongoing.

On February 6th, the Nathan Clevenger Group made our 2017 debut at San Francisco’s Makeout Room. These days, it is rare to play in a venue in San Francisco with this kind of tenure…or, for that matter, to play in a venue in San Francisco, full stop! The Makeout Monday series is always a good hang and we enjoyed debuting some new music and seeing some old friends. Speaking of which, with Cory Wright out of the country and by the grace of a rare scheduling confluence, we had a grand opportunity to welcome back clarinetist Aaron Novik, visiting from New York. Aaron originated the role of Clevenger Group clarinetist on our first gig back in 2003 and played over 50 gigs as a member of the band before leaving town. It was great having his artistry and personality back in the mix.

February also saw the launch of the revamped version of my Elective Infinities ensemble. With 2 members departing for other states/counties respectively, we added Phillip Greenlief (reeds) and Robert Lopez (drums) to the returning trio of Sarah Zaharako (violin), Eric Perney (bass) and yours truly. It was a very fun first gig and a pleasure to share The Uptown stage with our wildly talented friend Zachary James Watkins and the legendary Larry Ochs/Donald Robinson duo. Many thanks to the surprisingly healthy Valentine’s Day crowd and to the great folks at the Active Music Series for hosting. We dug into some tunes from EI 1.0 and a couple debuts as well and I’m looking forward to hearing the new lineup develop.

I’m currently in the midst of my next film scoring project with Kristina Dutton, this time for a very interesting film by a local visual artist touching on the effects of climate change on coastal cities, using a very innovative and unusual approach to the material. More on this as it coheres – should be rather interesting!

Nothing on the gig calendar at the moment, but I aim to rectify that ASAP. More on that soon, with a little luck.

Be safe out there.