Kenosha KidBio (Even Longer)

Photo by Jason Thrasher

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 to 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 its geography makes it 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 has 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 and 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 four 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.

My perspective totally changed in 2003. I attended the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music, 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: a DVD/CD package featuring an all-new score for Buster Keaton’s silent film Steamboat Bill, Jr, the vinyl release of Fahrenheit, which is ten selections inspired by Ray Bradbury’s sci-fi classic, and the creation of the extensive Bandcamp archive which houses over 40 live shows. I embraced an incredible, world-wide group of peers who inspire me to this day. 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.

After several years delving deep into long extended live explorations of mostly a trio setting, I wanted to return to the studio and create something very special. The soon to be released “Inside Voices” and “Outside Choices” recordings is exactly that… an incredible document of what the music can be in the hands of the best friends and musicians I have the pleasure of ever meeting.

Today, my prime directive still stands: “Create new worlds”. In a week, I am willing to wear many hats… performer, composer, arranger, teacher… 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.