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Nels Cline: Of Singers and Sound

By Published: May 10, 2010

AAJ: On "Now the Queen" you sound like Joe Morris

Joe Morris
Joe Morris
at certain points.

NC: Interesting. That's how we play live. We play really tiny and we play really huge, and I've always done that since I started leading my own group. Anybody who's known me since my late teens knows I'm obsessed with Paul Bley's music, specifically his playing with Carla Bley

Carla Bley
Carla Bley
and Annette Peacock, and have played certain of those pieces for years. And "Now the Queen," the Singers had never played live until that Café Du Nord engagement, and Scott and Devin, I don't think they'd ever even heard it before. But there's not much to it.

It's one of those beautiful little squibs that I think Paul would say to Carla, "Carla, I have gig tonight, write me a new song." I've been obsessed with that music since I was 19. I toss it out there every once in a while because I enjoy the challenge of trying to get my ear going and approximate what I consider to be the amazing free harmonic brilliance but still with all kinds of blues inflection of Paul Bley's music, especially from that period, the '60s and '70s.

So that's why we do it, just to play free and play quietly, no looping, no delays, no distortion. You know, "Blues, Too"—people are writing that I dedicated it to Jim Hall

Jim Hall
Jim Hall
1930 - 2013
that night, but in the notes on Giant Pin (Cryptogramophone, 2004) where it first appeared, it's always been dedicated to Jim Hall. It's an attempt to pay homage, not just to Jim Hall, but to a sensibility about jazz improvisation that was born out of the West Coast Cool School, particularly the Jimmy Giuffre
Jimmy Giuffre
Jimmy Giuffre
1921 - 2008
Three, and then as they morphed into the NY Jimmy Giuffre Three, then you have Paul Bley and Steve Swallow
Steve Swallow
Steve Swallow
, and some of the most influential music on me that's ever existed.

Jim Hall remains to me a total inspiration, somebody who's never played it safe, someone who constantly tries ideas he doesn't play every time, and have such an amazing harmonic sense. Everything about him screams genius to me—non-generic jazz genius.

Selected Discography

Nels Cline Singers, Initiate (Cryptogramophone, 2010)

Nels Cline, Coward (Cryptogramophone, 2009)
Nels Cline and G.E. Stinson, Elevating Device (Sounds Are Active, 2009)
Wilco, The Album (Nonesuch, 2009)
Acoustic Guitar Trio, Vignes (Long Song Records, 2009)

Jeff Gauthier, House of Return (Cryptogramophone, 2008)
Nels Cline Singers, Draw Breath (Cryptogramophone, 2007)
Wilco, Sky Blue Sky (Nonesuch, 2007)
Nels Cline Singers, New Monastery: A View Into the Music of Andrew Hill (Cryptogramophone, 2006)
Jeff Gauthier, One and the Same (Cryptogramophone, 2006)
Nels Cline Singers, The Giant Pin (Cryptogramophone, 2004)
Nels Cline Singers, Instrumentals (Cryptogramophone, 2002)
Jeff Gauthier, Mask (Cryptogramophone, 2002)
Nels Cline, Destroy All Nels Cline (Atavistic, 2000)
Nels Cline, The Inkling (Cryptogramophone, 2000)
Nels Cline/Gregg Bendian, Interstellar Space Revisited [Live] (Atavistic, 1999)

Photo Credits

Pages 1, 3: Courtesy of Cryptogramophone Records

Pages 2, 4, 5: Beth Herzhaft, Courtesy of Cryptogramophone Records

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