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Nels Cline 4
August 7, 2018 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Of all the rich and varied projects guitarist Nels Cline has pursued since his emergence as a leader in the late 1980s, his two-guitar duo with Julian Lage, documented on the 2014 album Room, ranks among the most special. “When Julian and I started playing together it kicked my ass hard,” Cline told JazzTimes around the time of Room’s release. “At the same time it inspired me and refreshed my soul.” Lage, for his part, declared he had “found his people” playing with Cline: “At last I found a scenario where … you could be free and adventurous, you could utilize sound and be extremely melodic and evocative.”
The duo is still ongoing, but it is morphing and expanding. With Currents, Constellations, Cline’s second Blue Note release, we hear the debut of The Nels Cline 4, made up of Cline and Lage plus the fierce and versatile rhythm section of bassist Scott Colley and drummer Tom Rainey. All of the music is Cline’s, save for a haunting and rare Carla Bley gem from the Jimmy Giuffre 3 songbook.
Known as the lead guitarist of Wilco since 2004, and one of Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitarists,” Cline is coming off the success of his 2016 Blue Note debut Lovers, a “quietly ravishing double-album” (NY Times) featuring Cline with a large ensemble conducted and arranged by Michael Leonhart that was “wildly inventive in its watercolored way” (Rolling Stone). On Currents, Constellations Cline embraces a sparser but edgier instrumentation, which serves the adventurous thrust of the music, brimming as it does with raw energy and wild beauty.
“Even in the earliest days of the duo we used to say, ‘I wonder what we’d do if we ever had a rhythm section,’” Cline recalls. Cline establishes a scintillating rapport with Lage as he did in the duo, though Lage is tasteful enough to play a supremely musical support role as well. The point was less to feature “sovereign” guitar solos, in Cline’s words, and more to facilitate an ensemble sound, whether marked by heated collective improvisation or a more delicate and precise approach on the contemplative pieces.