Few guitarists cover the sheer range of Nels Cline, moving between genres from folk and rock, as a member of Wilco, to free jazz, with Vinny Golia and Gregg Bendian among others, to his own highly eclectic projects that impinge on all of these categories.
Coward is a solo record, in the sense that it's the work of a single musician, but it rarely sounds that way, Cline building up many of the pieces with layers of overdubs, combining guitars and effects pedals with sruti boxes, miscellaneous strings, synthesizers and a drum machine. Despite the level of hardware, there's an intimacy to much of the CD, giving the feeling of folk music or the kind of virtuoso steel-string acoustic music associated with Robbie Basho or John Fahey, a lyricism that bridges Elizabethan lute music, baroque sonatas, Appalachian folk tunes and Eastern idioms that first found voice on saz, oud, veena or koto. The apotheosis of this music comes in the most extended piece, "Rod Poole's Gradual Ascent to Heaven," a profoundly meditative, microtonal reflection on the death of Cline's friend and partner (with Jim McCarthy) in the Acoustic Guitar Trio. There are also pieces here which push electric guitar to electronic, including the dense drone of the opening "Epiphyllum" and the floating sci-fi weirdness of "Thurston Country."
Its range is vast, but the CD flows together seamlessly, each piece issuing from the same highly developed musical sensibility. Cline provides copious notes on his assembly processes on his website nelscline.com/coward.html. It's music well worth exploring.
Track Listing: Epiphyllum; Prayer Wheel; Thurston County; The Androgyne; Rod Poole's Gradual Ascent to Heaven; The Divine Homegirl; X Change(s); The Nomad's Home; ONAN Suite: I. Amniotica, II. Lord & Lady, III. Dreams in the Mirror; IV. Interruption (Onan's Psychedelic Breakdown), V. Seedcaster, VI. The Liberator; Cymbidium.
Personnel: Nels Cline: electric and acoustic 6- and 12-string guitars (steel string and otherwise, prepared and otherwise), Srvti boxes, loops, banjo uke, tenor ukulele, zither, fretless cigar box guitar, Turkish 12-string; dobro, 6-string bass, megamouth, electric autoharp, Quintronics drum buddy, Kaossilator effects.
First time I met Lee Konitz, my mentor who completely changed my life, in 1992. He was giving a masterclass at the Cologne Conservatory (Germany) where I was a freshmen (with playing experience around three years total)
First time I met Lee Konitz, my mentor who completely changed my life, in 1992. He was giving a masterclass at the Cologne Conservatory (Germany) where I was a freshmen (with playing experience around three years total). He saw an alto sax on my neck and said: Hey, how about you there, would you like to play something for us? I played a piece with the piano. OK, said Lee, how about you play something unaccompanied? Oh yeah! I was deep into transcribing Sonny Stitt and pretty much into playing as fast as possible as many right notes as possible. So I played Oleo in about 300 beats per minute and was very proud of myself. Lee was tapping his foot all the way through. Hmm, he said, that was in time and all that... (I thought - yeah, of course, haha!) and then he said, You've got a lot of quantity, how about quality? It took me 15 years to realize what he meant.