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Nels Cline Singers: Draw Breath

An epiphany can occur while listening to “Confection,” track three on Draw Breath. This melodic slice of aggressive music could have been played by fIREHOSE, the ’80s/’90s post-punk band that featured bassist Mike Watt, who later enlisted guitarist Nels Cline for his solo work. Anyone whose record collection ever included bands of that era side-by-side with jazz classics is likely to feel that these two seemingly diverse musical spheres have finally come together, taking one giant leap for jazz-punks everywhere. Some folks might not consider Cline either a punk (in the positive sense) or jazz musician. Like him or not, he’s digested a vast amount of musical influences, from Coltrane-inspired free jazz and Andrew Hill through punk rock and on to what sounds like John Fahey-esque acoustic music. Draw Breath finds him changing moods with every song and presenting a complete picture. The Nels Cline Singers don’t have a vocalist, but they do include bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Scott Amendola. Cline’s Wilco bandmate Glenn Kotche appears on one track. Along with “Confection,” they are equally adept at quiet acoustic pieces that often follow free-jazz romps that last 15 minutes without a wasted note. Cline and Amendola use electronics and effects on their instruments to further twist with their sonic landscape. So maybe this is really rock music played with jazz chops. Whatever it is, more people need to hear it.

Originally Published