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Nels Cline: Entering the New Monastery

By Published: October 24, 2006

NC: Someone had given me a copy of CODA magazine when I was in Toronto, because the Singers The Giant Pin had been on some year end lists. And then there was this record, The Day the World Stood Still (Stunt, 2003), the Andrew Hill Jazz Octet plus 1, or something like that. It appeared on some year end lists, so I tried to find it. Couldn't even find it at Poo-Bah Records, Michael Davis couldn't even get it on computer anywhere to order it. Ultimately, a friend of mine saw it come up on e-bay and bought it for me. It's another live record with these Scandinavian horn players.

That record was highly regarded by the critics, but good luck finding it. The thing about the Palmetto stuff was you could actually find it. Andrew's been in the academic world for so long now, that's why he's not as noticeable I suppose, because he's been teaching. But also, think of the downturn creative music took in the eighties during the Reagan years when all the people that I grew up seeing in concert halls were now playing for 50-100 people in clubs, and how long can you do that and survive? People found other things to do keep their thing going.

AAJ: Do you have an eye toward another artist for a tribute session?

NC: There are actually two. I think this stuff gets pretty dangerous, by the way. You know, for awhile there I was actually in two bands that did electric Miles Davis music. I was originally in Yo Miles, and I was in Mark Isham's Silent Way project. That was ironic to me, in a way. When Tony Williams died, my brother Alex and [keyboardist] Wayne Peet and I played the Alligator Lounge—a tribute to Lifetime the week after he died, with basically no rehearsal, just got up there and wailed on these things. A recording of that floated around, and then I did Interstellar Space with Gregg Bendian. I don't want to become the king of the tribute records.

This whole tribute thing is an easy handle for people, but my reasons for doing it now were also because what with Wilco and all, there's a little bit more attention focused on me than usual, and I wanted to say something about music that people checking me out this year haven't confronted, and it's important to me for who I am. The two other things that have come to mind that were never designed to be related to the Andrew Hill thing, but have been discussed, I've always wanted to cover The Horizon Beyond (Emarcy, 1966), by the [guitarist] Attila Zoller quartet which would be really, really hard. It's a brilliant and super obscure record that was really influential on me when I heard it in the seventies. That's a fantasy.

Also, I've performed with [guitarist] Jeff Parker. Last December we played our version, with a quartet, of [pianist] Paul Bley's Turning Point (Improvising Artists, 1964), which is all [pianist] Carla Bley compositions. I think it would be really fun to record that with those guys. I have so many ideas. There's no market for it, but might as well try and get a lot of it recorded. We did this thing, Nate McBride was on bass, and Frank Rosaly on drums. They were guys I didn't even know, and they were so magnificent, I would just like to play anything with those guys, with Jeff. I love playing with Jeff.

AAJ: The Chicago thing is so strong.

Nels ClineNC: It is strong. I think they've worked hard to create some sort of sense of themselves in that way, it's been a militant effort. I'm not sure they're any more players than anywhere else, I think it's what they have as an identity, I think they have a sense of themselves. It puts them out there in that way. In Los Angeles, I'd say there's just as many great players, but they don't have that identity, and I think it's because everyone in LA has always had a chip on their shoulder about being from LA, and the rest of the world isn't helping, as far as that perception. Because nobody thinks anything good happens here, very few people do. Obviously, history is going to prove them wrong.

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