Rob Clutton

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Upcoming Shows

16 July, 9 pm: Cluttertones @ Wenona Lodge, 1069 Bloor Street West. PWYC

20 August, 9 pm: The Rob Clutton Trio @ Wenona Lodge, 1069 Bloor Street West. PWYC

  • About
    Rob Clutton is a Toronto-based composer/performer who works in the intersections of composition and improvisation, in long-term projects in which the relationship of the musicians has a central but incalculable role. Rob’s impetus to play the bass comes from listening, allowing inspiration to reside in a sonic imaginary, in which the sound of the bass is the same as the tree singing is the same as the human listening. Rob has two solo bass albums: Dubious Pleasures and Suchness Monster, on the Rat-Drifting label. Oct 12, 2018 is the release date of Rob’s 6th CD of compositions, Leeways, featuring the Cluttertones and Lee Pui Ming. In 2015 the Cluttertones released Ordinary Joy, a critically acclaimed recording of original compositions, on the Healing Power label. Earlier independent releases include Holstein Dream Pageant and Tender Buttons. As a creative bassist, Rob has dedicated himself to playing original music, and has toured in the USA and Europe with Lina Allemano’s Titanium Riot, and the Juno-winning Neufeld Occhipinti Jazz Orchestra (NOJO). Other touring has included Japan, the UK, and the Cervantino Festival in Mexico with the Steve Koven Trio, as well as extensive Canadian performances with various groups including John Millard and Happy Day, Drumheller, the Nick Fraser Quartet and Fides Krucker’s In This Body. As an active participant in Toronto’s improvised and creative music community, Rob collaborates with musicians, dancers, theatre and performance artists. This year Rob is grateful to be exploring the intersections of improvisation and composition in Berlin, New York, and Toronto, under the auspices of an Ontario Arts Council “Chalmers Fellowship.”
    As a leader

    The Cluttertones - Leeways

    The Cluttertones - Ordinary Joy, Healing Power 30

    Rob Clutton - Suchness Monster, Rat-drifting 17

    Rob Clutton - Dubious Pleasures, Rat-drifting 08

    Rob Clutton - Band Holstein Dream Pageant, Snailbongbong 002

    2000 Rob Clutton - Band Tender Buttons, Snailbongbong 001

    As a member of a collaborative project
    See Through Two - Slow Bend, All-Set! Editions

    Ronda Rindone’s Quorum - Gestation, Independent

    Drumheller - Sometimes Machine, Barnyard Records

    Clutton/Michelli/West - Compound Eyes, SR 001
    Drumheller - Glint, Rat-drifting 18

    Drumheller - Wives, Rat-drifting 12

    Drumheller - Drumheller, Rat-drifting 09

    This Moment - Beautiful Line, Nine Winds

    1996 Handslang - Handslang, HS001

    As a side person
    Stranger Still - Songs of Bread, Wine and Salt, All-Set!

    Fides Krucker - In This Body, independent.

    Roscoe Mitchell and the Montreal-Toronto Art Orchestra - Ride The Wind, Nessa

    Nick Fraser Quartet - Is Life Long?, Clean Feed

    Lina Allemano’s Titanium Riot - Squish It!, Lumo

    Steve Koven Trio - Beyond The C, Bungalow

    Little Annie - Trace, Tin Angel

    Nick Fraser Quartet - Starer, Independent

    R. Murray Shafer - Apocalypsis, Analekta

    Lina Allemano’s Titanium Riot - Kiss The Brain, Lumo

    Ryan Driver Quintet - Plays The Stephen Parkinson Songbook, Tin Angel, Barnyard

    Nick Fraser - Towns and Villages, Barnyard Records 0330
    Steve Koven Trio - 20, Independent

    Aimtoronto Orchestra - Year of the Boar, Barnyard Records 0322

    Eric Chenaux - Warm Weather With Ryan Driver, Constellation 068

    Jandek - Toronto Sunday: Duality of Self, Corwood Industries 0803

    Ryan Driver - Who’s Breathing?, Rat-drifting 20

    Steve Koven Trio - Alone Together, independent.

    Anthony Braxton, Aimtoronto Orchestra Creative Orchestra - (Guelph) 2007, Spool.

    David Mott/Chistina Petrowska Quilico - Eclipse, Centrediscs

    Ryan Driver Quintet - Glamour, independent

    Steve Koven Trio - The Sound of Songs, independent

    Steve Koven Trio - Resurgence, independent

    Sea of Song Trio - Blue Boat, independent

    Picastro - Whore Luck, Polyvinyl

    David Buchbinder - Shurum Burum Jazz Circus, independent

    Josh Thorpe - Flocklight, Rat-drifting 10

    Steve Koven Trio - All The Time In The World, independent

    David Mott Quintet - The Eleven, independent
    John Millard and Happy Day - Citizens, Awake!, Festival

    Paul Neufeld - Walk Together, True North

    Jazzstory - Jazzstory, Guildwood N.O.J.O. with Don Byron -
    Highwire, True North

    Steve Koven Trio - Lifetime, independent

    John Millard and Happy Day - Festival

    Steve Koven Trio - Not By The Elbows, independent

    Tim Posgate - An Eager Leap, Guildwood

    NOJO with Don Byron - You Are Here, True North

    Steve Koven Trio - Live At The Senator, independent

    NOJO - FireWater, independent

    NOJO - N.O.J.O., independent
  • Solo Bass
    1. Taken Over By The Hounds of Reason
    2. How Big Are The Dots

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    Dubious Pleasures is Rob Clutton’s solo debut on Rat-drifting.  It's a solo string bass album and also a collection of nine very distinct compositions.

    “The real challenge is to create and sustain musical interest, and that Clutton does admirably, crafting a series of pieces that are as different in mood and content as they are in techniques.” –Stuart Broomer, Musicworks

    Read more at the Rat-Drifting website.
    1. Bundle And Bear
    2. Fenugreek

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    “The second solo recording for Toronto’s Rat-Drifting label from Rob Clutton, a phenomenal bassist and a deeply engrossing performer, offers new insights into the state of the art of double bass playing. Classically trained, a respected jazz player and world-class improviser, Clutton has an original and heartfelt take on music and performance. In a word, deep.” - Gordon Allen, The Mirror

    Read more at the Rat-Drifting website.

    Full albums available for streaming and purchase on Bandcamp

  • The Cluttertones
    1. Bears
    2. Leeways Pt. 3

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    1. Webbed
    2. Bison

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    The Cluttertones are Lina Allemano (trumpet), Rob Clutton (bass, composition), Ryan Driver (human voice, analogue synth, piano), and Tim Posgate (banjo, guitar). The group has been playing together for nearly a decade, and each of the members have long associations with the others in various projects. This music plays at the edges between known/unknown, concrete/abstract, solo/group, expression/process. Drawing from a broad range of experience—which includes jazz, European classical music, electronica, improvisation, folk, singer-songwriter, experimental—the Cluttertones play what some have called “otherworldly chamber music.”

    “The Cluttertones trade in a sort of weirdness and beauty you’re very unlikely to have encountered before—even if you’re familiar with its constituents’ back catalogues. Ordinary Joy feels elusive and intangible at first, leaving the listener groping for syntax. One’s second listen, however, yields an impression of warm familiarity, albeit with no shortage of tangles and kinks.” - Nick Storring, Musicworks

    Ordinary Joy is available for streaming and purchase on Bandcamp

    Connect with Rob and The Cluttertones on Facebook:

  • The Rob Clutton Trio
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    The Rob Clutton Trio is Karen Ng (saxophone), Rob Clutton (bass), and Nick Fraser (drums).

    1. Cloak
    2. Hounds
    3. Strata

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  • The Rob Clutton Band
    1. Cranberry Bog
    2. Trio Series

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    “A mix of composition and improvisation, meditative moods and fractal bursts worthy of its Gertrude Stein inspiration (“Act so that  there is no use in a centre”), this is at once document, signpost and fossil.” – Carl Wilson, Globe And Mail
    1. Andante
    2. Moderato

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    “There are no tunes explicitly about cattle here, but much of Holstein Dream Pageant is as wide-open as a country field. There's an intriguing looseness to the jazz-based music Toronto bassist Clutton and his ensemble make, with each tune evolving as it grows.” Matt Galloway, Now Magazine

    Full albums available for streaming and purchase on Bandcamp

  • Watch

    Solo at Gallery 345 in Toronto
    From "The Steve Koven Trio: An Evening Of Creativity"
    Producer: Ronald L. Grimes
    Filmmaker: Bryn Scott-Grimes

    The Cluttertones - Lion and Ant
    Choreography by Dawne Carleton
    Video by Laurie Kwasnik - ChromaSonic Pictures

  • Reviews
    Musicworks October 2018
    Bassist Rob Clutton has been composing for his group the Cluttertones for over a decade, modelling his work for a quartet that includes trumpeter Lina Allemano and guitarist–banjoist Tim Posgate, with Ryan Driver playing analog synthesizer and singing. The approach is unusual, combining occasional folk-like melodies and lyrics with electronica and frequent freely improvised solos. On Leeways, Clutton and the group extend the dialogue of parts and personalities by adding pianist and singer Lee Pui Ming.

    The first five pieces come from a series of contrapuntal works that Clutton composed at the rate of one per month during 2014. A couple of the series appeared on the group’s previous release Ordinary Joy. Each composition features a single member of the group, with Lee adding her own piano in subtly interactive ways as well, from understated percussion to string textures. The opening piece, Gull, foregrounds Driver’s synthesizer and voice. It’s an oddly folk-like use of electronics in which initially brief trumpet interruptions gradually lead to developed contrapuntal lines from trumpet and guitar. That folk-like aspect is still more pronounced on Bears, with Driver’s reedy, keening voice mining Clutton’s rustic lyrics amid a continuous obbligato from Posgate’s banjo. Julio features Allemano, who explores wind effects through her horn without articulating notes, as group elements gradually appear and grow stranger until the piece revolves back to Allemano alone. Septiembre begins with Clutton’s feature fluid bass solo, which eventually encounters sudden collective intrusions from the rest of the band, led by Allemano’s trumpet, and ultimately transmutes into a calmly extended group piece.

    The album’s second half is given to Leeways, a five-part suite in which Lee is given freedom to improvise throughout in a kind of concerto, at times providing great lyric sweep. The group continues to emphasize solo and duet voices, such as the pianist’s developed dialogues with Posgate in the first segment and with Allemano in the second. At times, identities seem to pass from one instrument to another, Allemano’s trumpet functioning as percussion while Clutton’s bowed bass soars into the cello register, the banjo assuming a kind of unlikely nobility while the synthesizer resembles a hurdy-gurdy.

    As songs match up with instrumental abstractions, the Cluttertones happily provide a forum for Clutton’s highly personal musical visions, combining improbable materials into textures and sequences with dreamlike qualities.
    -Stuart Broomer

    Exclaim October 2018
    Bassist/composer Rob Clutton's emergence as a bandleader is an example of the singular visions that have been blooming in Toronto over the last decade or two. The Cluttertones encompass such radically diverse movements as the jazz-noise scene, and the ornery ennui of the Rat Drifting movement.

    What sets them apart is a gentle lyricism , reminiscent of some of Efterklang's best work, and Clutton's ability to showcase the individual voices of his band, which incorporates some of the most original virtuoso voices on the Canadian scene.

    Leeways is a divergence from their last release, Ordinary Joy, as it incorporates pianist Lee Pui Ming in some remarkable forays into the world of harmonic grids. While "Gull" finds Lee occupying a more supportive role, she jumps to the forefront and occupies the free jazz spaces in "Leeways 1" to "Leeways 3," returning to the asymmetrical world of the Cluttertones in "Leeways 4" and "Leeways 5."

    The other extraordinary and quite wonderful thing about this release and Clutton's oeuvre are the songs. They are beautiful, thoughtful and engaging, with instrumental support that goes far beyond mere accompaniment. Ryan Driver's voice is reflective and is set off wonderfully by sensitively played arrangements. Kudos to Tim Posgate (guitar/banjo), Lina Allemano (trumpet) and Driver (doubling on synth) and also the stellar bass work of Rob Clutton for creating the world that pianist Lee Pui Ming is so comfortable in. (Independent)
    -Nilan Perera

    Toronto Music Report, Sept 2018
    There is something irresistible about listening to the manner in which bassist Rob Clutton shepherds this music by The Cluttertones, using the bluegrass picking of the banjo by Tim Posgate and the elementally sad vocals of Ryan Driver together with his frequent manipulation of an analogue synthesizer all of which is woven into the wild atmospherics and free improvisations of Lina Allemano’s trumpet together with Lee Pui Ming’s piano and voice. It is an affirmation that they are bound by the belief that the inner dynamic of tradition is always to innovate. And innovate they do with this defiantly provocative music that puts the trumpet in creative conflict with a synthesizer and the piano in conflict with the bass, the human voice and of course the trumpet and the guitar too. But this is no pastiche of archetypal proportions.

    By actively throwing overboard melodic, structural and harmonic hooks that have become expressively blunted through overuse, Mr Clutton and The Cluttertones – together with Miss Ming, who flings herself into the depths of innovation in her pianism as she worships at the altar of creativity – as together they build from what might- or might not – be left of the elements of music. And yet melody and harmony are reborn and coexist with almost instinctive radicalism as instrumentation is sometimes brutally disjointed, then shredded and made whole again with sublime musical device and gesture into agitatedly ticking motor rhythms, volatile white noise all ignited in an acoustic and electronic soundscape that is wrenched from each instrument, and sometimes glued together by the human voice.

    The defining moments of this approach to music come in the pivotal “Leeways”, a suite of five parts written, it would seem, expressly to bring the piano of Miss Ming into this extraordinary music that The Cluttertones have been making for the first half of this recording. Beginning with the hushed sonorities of Miss Ming’s piano at the edge of audibility Mr Clutton’s music generates structural arcs that provoke extended instrumental techniques from the piano (and the other instruments led by Mr Driver’s compendium of electronic keys and knobs, Mr Posgate’s guitar and the rest of the instruments) to shatter the score. And long passages of Miss Allemano’s trumpet rip the score apart by abrupt scrapings, while manic staccatos send melodic cells scattering to the outer limits of our ability to hear them.
    This is not easy music to nail, but no group could perform it better than the musicians of The Cluttertones. If the sounds Mr Clutton hears in his inner ear move off the radar of conventional instrumental timbre, Lina Allemano Tim Posgate, Ryan Driver and the inimitable Lee Pui Ming unerringly zone into Mr Clutton’s intentions, realising his ideas faithfully.
    -Raul de Gama

    Whole Note, October, 2018
    Encompassing a five-part suite and shorter features, the array of musical paths followed on Toronto-based The Cluttertones’ Leeways (SnailBongBong SBB 005) make the previous CD appear singularly directed. Tunes composed by bassist/leader Rob Clutton feature fine performances by the band – trumpeter Lina Allemano, guitarist/banjoist Ted Posgate, Ryan Driver on analog synth and vocals plus Clutton – with pianist Lee Pui Ming joining for the title suite. Remarkably enough, Lee’s formalist/improv comping is no more prominent on those five tracks than the other players’ contributions. In fact it’s Allemano gritty, back-of-throat growls and rounded capillary exposition that make the greatest impression on “Part 2”, when backed by keyboard jumps; and a similar scenario unfolds on “Part 3”. Here Clutton agilely moves the tune forward with discursive but emphasized string drones, vibrating multi-string slaps and pinched sul tasto runs as Lee comps, the banjo twangs Bluegrass-like and synthesizer tones tweet. Earlier on, the most fully realized group effort is “Septiembre”. Consisting of a slew of intermezzos, it highlights double-bass stopping, buzzing electric guitar licks and high-pitched trumpet slurs, with a conclusion that’s rhythmically solid and notably kinetic. Instructively “Gull”, the first track, effectively adumbrates what’s to come, as crackles and flutters from the synth underscore a near-vocalized, muted trumpet tone, sometimes harmonized with a walking bass line, spiky guitar flanges and Driver’s high-pitched scat singing. Unfortunately it’s songs which undermines the entire disc’s effectiveness. Those times when Driver mouths the impressionistic folksy lyrics in a lachrymose fashion, almost halt the proceedings, but are saved from stasis by pointed trumpet obbligatos. With the skill and sophistication displayed on the other tracks, it’s unfortunate that vocalizing prevent Leeways reaching the highest musical rung.
    -Ken Waxman

    Avant Scena, December 2018
    “Leeways” is a new release of “SnailBongBong Records”. Album was recorded by “The Cluttertones”. The ensemble plays innovative and engaging avant-garde jazz – Lina Allemano (trumpet), Rob Clutton (bass, compositions), Ryan Driver (analogue synthesizer, human voice) and Tim Posgate (banjo, guitar) here play together with special guest Lee Pui Ming (piano, voice). Five great jazz masters create original, bright and passionate avant-garde jazz, who is mixed with other music styles. The basics of avant-garde jazz, sound experiments, free improvisations, wild and thrilling solos, spontaneous musical decisions always keep the base of musical pattern. It’s mixed together with aggressive and sharp bebop, expressive hard bop, cool and some other styles of contemporary and modern jazz. The repetitive playing technique, simple chords, primitive and ordinary instrumentation, quadratic form or modern, vivacious, evocative and fresh ideas, musical decisions or expressions – all these elements brought relation with contemporary academical music, academic avant-garde and other styles of modern academical music. The musicians are individual players, who have colorful and expressive playing manner, unique sound and impressive musical language.

    “Leeways” is filled with bright, intense and dynamic sound. Here avant-garde, experimental and modern jazz styles are mixed together with contemporary academical, academic avant-garde, minimalism, electronic and experimental music. The music is balancing between academical, strict and evocative sound, innovative instrumentation and wild free, impressive and dizzy improvisations. The music also connects together the basics of Western Europe and Asian music. Soft intonations of China ethnic music are gently and subtly mixed with Western Europe harmony, expressions and other typical elements. Album is evocative, engaging and full of surprises – musicians are passing through different moods, styles, manners and colors. They manage to create dynamic, variable and passionate sound with rich musical language, spontaneous changes and sudden turns. From silent, peaceful and subtle pieces music goes straight to dramatic culminations, roaring blow outs, charming and bright passages, vivid melodies, sparkling and fascinating sound experiments or aggressive and turbulent collective improvisations. The music is filled with changes and colors – that really makes a strong effort to whole musical pattern and its compounds. Sometimes it’s eclectic, ascetic, ordinary and simple, illustrated with synthetic tunes of electronics or synthesizer. Musical pattern has many different layers, who are individual, but still connected together. Each of them has independent form, unique sound and own musical language and mood. There’s a huge range of playing techniques, factures, forms and expressions – polyphony meets with diatonic homophony, warm acoustics go straight with synthetic electronics. Eclectic and exotic instrumental combinations are the key to innovative and engaging searches of weird timbres and unusual sounds. Musicians are inventing new and extraordinary ways of playing, experimental and specific playing techniques, bordering dynamics and variable rhythms. The harmony also is very rich – soft consonances are used together with expressive and sharp disonances, the harmonic intonations of Asian music, strange chords or weird intervals, who are not usually used at musical language. The voice elements and banjo bring the elements, who are mostly related to ethnic music of South Europe, especially Spain or Italy. The stylistic range is so wide, that it’s impossible to predict one exact music style, to who this music is related. Roaring and charming piano solos gently fit together with passionate, light and loud trumpet, impressive passages, dizzy solos, remarkable melodies, intense guitar’s riffs, heavy hard core, soft, getle and light banjo or specific voice elements. Acoustics gently fit together with electronics – all the instrumentation of compositions is innovative and touching. From roaring blow outs, passionate and gentle pizzicatto, strict staccato, soft arpeggio, colorful and fantastic glissando and dozens of other typical playing techniques of acoustics are mixed with alterated tunes, modified timbres, vibrant and electric solos, subtle and ascetic ambient, sounds machine, sonic system’s experiments, sounds of computer and electronic devices, and a little bit of intonations similar to drone and glitch. That’s just a part of electronics playing techniques, who are used here – it’s splendidly fit together with acoustics. Two different instruments groups subtly and genuinely mixes at common and natural musical pattern. The music of this album has touching, bright, passionate, expressive and vivacious sound.
    -Avant Scena

Rob's work has been generously supported by:

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