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The Nels Cline Singers: Share the Wealth (Blue Note)

Review of seventh album by the guitarist-led non-singing group, now a sextet

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Cover of the Nels Cline Singers album Share the Wealth
Cover of the Nels Cline Singers album Share the Wealth

Guitarist Nels Cline is known for injecting deranged new life into music as disparate as that of Wilco, Ornette Coleman, Rickie Lee Jones, and Kris Davis. The Nels Cline Singers are a non-singing group (now a sextet) that takes his shrapnel-meets-sweetbread guitar into raucous free jazz territory. Share the Wealth, the Singers’ seventh album, is a bloody, atmospheric, sweet toothache of a recording that will leave you spent—if you pay attention, and if you last.

Performed by Cline and hot-shot ringers Skerik (saxophone), Brian Marsella (keyboard), Trevor Dunn (bass), Scott Amendola (drums), and Cyro Baptista (percussion), Share the Wealth recalls Martin Scorsese’s 1985 New York city fever dream After Hours, wherein Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) traipses across New York’s then art- and danger-filled SoHo in search of sex and a $20 bill. It trades in banshee howls, nightmarish guitar squalls and feedback, hallucinations and mistakes, heavy metal blasts, stomping feet, talk-show chatter—a glorious, unhealthy cereal of noise, melody, mischief, and nostalgia. The Beatles’ “Revolution 9” also comes to mind, its tape loops and spoken-word shenanigans replaced with shock-tactic electric guitar (“Stump the Panel”), Morricone-like Lounge Lizard riffscapes (“Headdress”), wah-wah guitar assaults, vibraphone, and LiveEvil sendups (“Princess Phone”), bent-string hijinks and whispers (“Ashcan Treasure”).

Is Share the Wealth jazz? Radio theater of the air? A sound-effects record gone wrong? Something more sinister? It’s all that and more, 50 years of cultural sewage coughed up by a tape-machine beast.

Learn more about the Share the Wealth on Amazon!

Originally Published

Ken Micallef

Ken Micallef was once a jazz drummer; then he found religion and began writing about jazz rather than performing it. (He continues to air-drum jazz rhythms in front of his hi-fi rig and various NYC bodegas.) His reportage has appeared in Time Out, Modern Drummer, DownBeat, Stereophile, and Electronic Musician. Ken is the administrator of Facebook’s popular Jazz Vinyl Lovers group, and he reviews vintage jazz recordings on YouTube as Ken Micallef Jazz Vinyl Lover.