Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

The Nels Cline Singers: Initiate

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

It’s easy to focus on Nels Cline’s jack-of-all-trades work ethic, but what really makes the guitarist so significant is the consistency he brings to all these projects: a singular voice that occasionally goes heavy on the effects pedals, but uses them to create an astounding sonic vocabulary whether he’s playing straight rock music, jazz or, more typically, something in between.

On 2007’s Draw Breath, the Singers (Cline, bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Scott Amendola) bridged the unforeseen gap between wild jazz improvisation and California punk-rock shredding. Today, when the Singers charge up, a musical touchstone could be progressive rockers King Crimson, circa 1975’s Red, where fuzzed out clatter could maintain melodic sense before it suddenly shifted to quiet ambience. The double-CD Initiate features one studio disc and one live disc, each revealing the trio’s alternating abilities to mow down listeners with brute force or gently sooth. The electric funk of “Floored,” at the front of the studio disc, has a vamp like ’70s Miles Davis, but Cline’s solo would send the trumpeter running for cover. Before this set finishes he evokes Pete Cosey or John McLaughlin, and on this cut Cline dispenses his sonic tempest over a vamp that stops abruptly enough to prove this isn’t merely a jam. Later on, a gentle bass vehicle (“You Noticed”) and semi-romantic melody (“Zingiber”) lead to “Mercy (Procession),” which sounds like its subtitle, with tension building as Amendola rattles all over his kit. The disc makes unpredictable shifts in volume, adding to the excitement of the program.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published