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The Nels Cline 4: Currents, Constellations

Mark Sullivan By

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Guitarist/composer Nels Cline's new quartet builds upon his collaboration with guitarist Julian Lage, which was documented on Room (Mack Avenue, 2014). Both wondered what it would be like to add a rhythm section; respected players, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Tom Rainey, accepted the invitation to join the duo during a residency at The Stone in New York City, and this band was born. As on the duet album, both guitars play it straight. There is no acoustic guitar here, nor any of Cline's trademark electronic excursions. But the presence of a rhythm section lends an energy and a more extroverted sound.

All but one of the compositions are Cline's, the exception being one from Carla Bley. The band seems to have inspired Cline the composer; the tunes are striking, some of his most memorable. After a dissonant chord, "Furtive" opens with solo drums. A desperate bass-line begins what sounds like a cinematic chase scene. "Swing Ghost '59" has an odd metered swing head, but after call-and-response between the guitars it goes into the traditional swing promised by the title—a wonderful feeling of release.

"Imperfect 10" has a twisty, busy theme (and a similar tag at the end). In between the two guitars have an elaborate dance, now intertwining, now accompanying each other's solos. "Temporarily" is an early Carla Bley composition originally recorded for the Jimmy Giuffre 3's 1961 album Thesis (although not released at the time). It is an obsessive yet lyrical line which the whole band explores. "River Mouth (Parts 1 & 2)" explores a beautiful rubato feel during the first part, moving on to a busier, almost bluegrass-like head for the second; it is the album's longest track by far, and makes good use of the time. The closer "For Each, A Flower" sounds deliberate, like a farewell anthem.

Currents, Constellations is a considerable departure from Cline's 2016 Blue Note debut album, Lovers, with its romantic large ensemble. This is a great new band, and a pointed demonstration of Cline's composing and playing. I wouldn't mind hearing some of Cline's wild acrobatics on the next outing. But I look forward to hearing them again, either way.

Track Listing: Furtive; Swing Ghost '59; Imperfect 10; As Close As That; Amenette; Temporarily; River Mouth (Parts 1 & 2); For Each a Flower.

Personnel: Nels Cline: guitars; Julian Lage: guitars; Scott Colley: bass; Tom Rainey: drums.

Title: Currents, Constellations | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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