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Nels Cline: Dirty Baby

Mark Corroto By

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Those not hearing Nels Cline's music lately just aren't listening. Besides gracing rock band Wilco's albums and live shows, he seems to be the hottest jazz/improv guitarist of late. Right on the heels of his two-disc Initiate (Cryptogramophone, 2010)—maybe the jazz record of the year—he drops another double set, Dirty Baby, which is part of an art book, published by Delmonico Books Prestel, that re-contextualizes 66 works by artist Ed Ruscha with music and spoken word. These two CDs have the music and smaller reproductions of the Ruscha work in a beautifully designed box.

Cline was recruited for this project by producer David Breskin, the organizer of Bill Frisell's tribute project, Richter 858 (Songlines, 2005), set to Gerhard Richter's abstract paintings. Dirty Baby is organized into two parts: "Side A" is CD1, and is a continuous, 42-minute composition that follows the pre-history, history, and post- history of America, from primordial ooze to what sounds like post-apocalyptic stasis. Beginning with the gentle strumming of his acoustic guitar that is mirrored in the left and right channels, Cline builds the New World as a sunrise of harmonica (Bill Barrett), plus his Nels Cline Singers mates—bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Scott Amendola—who awaken to the possibilities of this world. As the piece builds, so does the complexity and the musicians, adding organ, piano, percussion and additional guitars. Following the 33 Ruscha artworks, the suite tracks through genocide, the western settlement, consumerism and finally the Iraq wars. The complexity segues into a funky mix "Part IV," and then a the swampy jam "Part V" that ends as simply as the suite began.

If "Side A" was a congruent whole, then "Side B" is entropy. It was conceived as 33 pieces for the 33 Ruscha artworks. Cline and his collaborators perform an encyclopedic array of styles and forms, the pieces clocking in from a half minute to three-and-a-half to explore noise, rock, free jazz and chamber classical, much like the work of John Zorn. Don't like a piece? It will be over in a minute, but same for the ones you enjoy. Is that not similar to walking through an exhibit of Ruscha's art?

Track Listing: CD1: Dirty Baby: Part I; Dirty Baby: Part II; Dirty Baby: Part III; Dirty Baby: Part IV; Dirty Baby: Part V. CD2: In God We Trust; Hi There, My Old Friend; If I Was You I'd Do Just Like I Told You To Do; Do As I Say Or...; No Mercy; Do As Told Or Suffer; Agree To Our Terms Or Prepare Yourself For A Blast Furnace; Your A Dead Man;Hey You Want To Sleep With The Fishes?; A Columbian Necklace For You; Note We Have Already Got Rid Of Several Like You--One Was Found In The River Just Recently; Be Cautious Else We Be Bangin On You; You Wont Know When You Wont Know Where You Wont Know Who You Wont Know Why; Its Payback Time; I'm Going To Leave More Notes And I'm Going To Kick More Ass; You Cross Me I Wanna See Blood; I Heard You Moved To Pahrump, Nevada--You Cannot Escape; Little Snitches Like You End Up In Dumpsters All Across Town; I'm Getting Out Soon And I Haven;t Forgot Your Testimony Put Me In Here; You Talk You Get Killed; Don't Let The Information Be Known To Any Person Or You Die: Don't Threaten Me With Your Threats; I Might Just Act Ugly If You Talk; When I'm Released I'm Smoking A Straight Line To You. Got Me?; Want To Get To Know My Boiling Point?; You Dirty Rotten Bitch; You Will Eat Hot Lead; I Can't take It No More; I Might Just Act Ugly If You Get Up On That Stand And Say Something Unpleasant To My Ears; I Thought I Told You That We Won't Stop; I Will Wipe You Off The Face Of This Earth; Give Up The Gold Or give Up Your Life; You And I Are In Disagreement.

Personnel: CD1: Bill Barrett: chromatic harmonica; Wayne Peet: organ; Jon Brion: electric piano, EMS synthi, voice; Jeremy Drake: guitars, string Instrument; Glenn Taylor: pedal steel guitar; Scott Amendola: drum set, percussion, loops/electronics; Devin Hoff: contrabass, bass guitar; Danny Frankel: percussion, 1/2 drum set; Nels Cline: guitars, effects, loops, megamouth, quintronics drum buddy. CD2: Vinny Golia: flute, clarinets saxophones; Dan Clucas: trumpet, flutes; Jeff Gauthier: violin; Jessica Catron: cello; Jeremy Drake: guitars, string Instrument; Devin Hoff: contrabass, bass guitar; Brad Dutz: xylophones, vibrophones, frame drum, bongos; Alex Cline: percussion; Nels Cline: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, effects, cigarbox guitar, lap steel guitar.

Title: Dirty Baby | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Cryptogramophone

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