Primary Instrument: Guitar
Dan Nettles :: Guitar & Composition
My name is Dan Nettles and I am the bandleader, composer, and guitarist for Kenosha Kid. Forgive me for writing this in the first person, but when a convention interferes with getting the point across, perhaps it can be discarded? In fact, much the same could be said about the music I make, which others have described as “some kind of as yet unlabeled jazz” (All About Jazz), as music “played through an Andy Warhol filter and served up Thomas Pynchon style” (Savannah Now), and as “jazz as if Kenny G and Wynton Marsalis never came along to ruin the genre's mainstream” (Flagpole Magazine). I would agree with most of these clever descriptions, although I have point out that I do enjoy Wynton’s music, if not all the things that he says. (We all should talk less and play more, in the end.)
I live in the town I was born in, a pleasant college town in The South called Athens, Georgia. Athens is a place that’s cheap to live, the days are long, and is a musical crossroads between older roots-music and uber-hip indie rock stars. Growing up here was like some sort of crazy musical cross pollination, and as I get older I readily recognize that this constant crossfire of influences had much to do with the shape of my artistic path.
It wasn’t exactly easy, however. I began playing guitar with my father… both kinds of music: “country AND western” (as described in The Blues Brothers). I had a hefty concert band education, and took band class to its small-town limit. Music never made me popular… I wasn’t one of those kids that could sing, or crank out the hits like a jukebox. Rather, I had trouble playing a song the same way twice, and was always making up riffs with friends... repeating phrases I’d hear in my head, then improvising off them. Somewhere along the way, I heard Wes Montgomery, Pat Metheny, and John Scofield, and I thought this was what I wanted to try. At 18, I packed myself up to Boston, dived into some serious research, and emerged 4 years later… armed with a carload of tools, but with no small spiritual loss. At that time I often pondered, “Is jazz just a musical pissing contest?”
Returning to Georgia, I spent the next several years getting all the performing experience that Boston never provided me. I still was struggling with musical identity. There seemed to be so many jazz “do-s and don’t-s”, and no way to fulfill them. I began to enjoy the rock scene more and more: there were fewer rules, everyone was a novice, and everyone was doing “their thing” regardless.
At this point, I attended the Banff International Jazz Workshop, and was thrilled to find a world of musicians in the same boat. Trumpeter Dave Douglas urged me to return to my home, make a scene happen, and write for people I know: I did just this, and came up with my first body of work, documented on the CD Projector. It was a relief to explore unusual instrumentation, work with strong improvisers regardless of idiom, and in general let the musical past be the past.
More material followed: commissions for an all new score for Buster Keaton’s silent film Steamboat Bill, Jr, music for the theatrical piece I, Marlena, and ten selections inspired by Ray Bradbury’s sci-fi classic called Fahrenheit. I embraced an incredible, world-wide group of peers who inspire me to this day. I began adding other elements: vocalists, films, or dancers, and they each served to disarm the expectations of the audience and the band members. The music propelled several tours of Europe, engagements in Canada and along the west coast, playing in jazz clubs, rock clubs, and independent film houses.
My prime directive still stands: “Create new worlds”. In a week, I am wiling to wear many hats… performer, composer, teacher, booker, promoter, designer… to fulfill a vision. Whatever I involve myself in, I make it a point to know the rules but never crucify myself to them, and above all listen to my ears and trust my instincts.
“Kenosha Kid loosens the laces on standard jazz. High art acknowledges pop art, influenced by Louis Armstrong and Charlie Christian, yet eager to strike a Keith Richards pose. The 18 tracks on their newest release are classic cuts played through an Andy Warhol filter and served up Thomas Pynchon style.” -Joel Weickgenant, Savannah Now 9/18/08
“Kenosha Kid’s jazzy blend of delta blues, bluegrass, avant-garde and indie rock colorfully enlivens the black and white screen while creating the perfect entry point for the jazz layman… Nettles succeeds in eliciting the pathos of the film with compositional wizardry, conjuring his 10-piece jazz-orchestra like an army of reanimated broom handles…” -Ryan Monohan, Flagpole Magazine 9/17/08
“Creating a spacious, warm vibe that presses against the ear, Kenosha Kid unsheathes delicate but complicated rhythms under busy low end that fights for air with reverb-soaked guitar lines. And even when the tension comes to a head and the going gets gritty, there are still nods to jazz of old, even as the eye gleams to the future.” -Ian Miller, Independent Weekly 9/17/08
“…an innovative collection of Americana sounds and melodic jazz, which makes the 80-year-old silent film sound like it hasn't aged a day.” -Joe Scott, Go Triad 9/11/2008
“Piercing melodies - the show-stoppingly pretty, music-major intricate kind that Wayne Shorter and Kenny Wheeler wrote in the '70s - guide this project, and the execution is as devastatingly funky as that of The Meters or Miles Davis' electric bands. Kenosha Kid plays jazz as if Kenny G and Wynton Marsalis never came along to ruin the genre's mainstream and leave its great minds to squawk away in an underground vacuum.” -Phillip Buchan, Flagpole Magazine 10/03/07
A Baedeker of music styles, the Athens, Ga.-based Kenosha Kid embraces jazz, klez, textured cinematic thrum, infectious pop melody and rollicking Nawlinz shuffles-all with a stunning sense of patience and flow... reminiscent of a long nose-against-the-window road trip through the flatlands. Music to dream to or get lost by. -Tim DuRoche, Willamette Week, Portland, Oregon 7/12/06
Subtle touches of atonality and noise colour what is otherwise almost a folk-music take on jazz; there are some parallels to guitarist Bill Frisell's recent music, but Nettles's approach is even more down-home and approachable. -Alexander Varty, Straight, Vancouver B.C. 7/22/06
“Something very different… beautiful, thick, atmospheric soundscapes…. The old routines of the song-format have been left far behind, and this trio can jump between rich contrasts… Nettles is no poser: what he plays shows great sense and understanding… Nothing is missing, the inner movie produced by Kenosha Kid while performing is enough to solidify the music. -Die Welt.De 1/11/2006
Projector is some kind of as yet unlabeled jazz... are all very finely constructed. The arrangements provide a seamless mix of the written and the improvised… The music flows and never stands still… giving the listener something new and unexpected every other moment. Even after multiple listens, the music still surprises and maintains a strong pull on one's attention... The music is beguiling… Indie-rock jazz lives! -Budd Kopman, All About Jazz 10/29/05
Projector stands on its own, a fluid, lovely blend of jazz into Nettles' masterful compositions and guitar work, featuring a collection of Athens' finest musicians… a great listen all the way through. -Julie Philips, Athens Banner-Herald 9/15/05