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Jazz Rocks

Nels Cline

Yes, it’s true. We put (another) rock star on the cover of JazzTimes. But this month’s cover subject, guitarist Nels Cline, had heavy jazz and experimental music cred way before he joined the acclaimed rock band Wilco. We featured the Los Angeles-based guitarist in 1997, and a few years back, Cline wrote an interesting piece for us about the legacy and influence of Andrew Hill. In short, he is no Johnny-come-lately to the jazz scene, nothing like those aging rockers who turn to jazz for some sort of cloak of credibility late in their fading careers. If anything, Cline went the opposite way, going from the jazz avant-garde to rock. And he never stopped recording and performing as a jazz artist.

What’s been most interesting is just how warmly he’s been accepted and embraced within the rock world for essentially playing the same audacious way he plays in front of small audiences. True, he’s now merely bringing his own sound and approach to a fully formed band with an established identity and a clear-cut leader in Jeff Tweedy. But it is interesting that Wilco fans of all ages genuinely appreciate Cline’s creative explorations. Yet, at least for now, Cline’s own solo performances don’t play to the same arena-sized audiences.

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