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The Nels Cline Singers: Draw Breath

Mark Corroto By

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The Nels Cline Singers: Draw Breath Maybe the one-off joke is that this band's name has worn thin since their 2002 release Instrumentals (Cryptogramophone), but the flavor continues.

Recently appointed guitar god Nels Cline has been garnering attention of late as the touring (now studio) guitarist for the pop band Wilco. But for jazz fans he has been the guitarist for much of the west coast scene since the 1980s.

Draw Breath is the The Nels Cline Singers' third release following Cline's very hip New Monastery (Cryptogramophone, 2006), which covered the music of Andrew Hill. Part of that band has been the core of the Singers: bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Scott Amendola.

Perhaps the band's name should be changed to The Many Moods of Nels Cline as these tracks point in many varying directions. He composes simple, lyrical music played in drawing rooms, as well as complex guitar-shredding stadium rock anthems worthy of guitarists Sonny Sharrock or Jean-Paul Bourelly.

The opening track, "Caved-In Heart Blues, written in the Bill Frisell Americana vein, draws from the open landscapes of the West as it crests upon itself into a gentle conclusion of electronic effects.

The peace cannot be held for long as the trio tears open the guitar manual of mayhem on "Attempted, an open forum for Cline and Amendola that is held together by bassist Hoff. Neither player feels confined to linear music-making, changing direction often, yet sprinting ever onward.

The trio tears into "Confection, a tune that could have been written by indie rock band Camper Van Beethoven, before it jumps head first into the sixteen minute "An Evening At Pops'. Its quiet beginning and electronic swirl give way to a blast zone of energy not heard since Jackie Gleason ripped one of his Honeymooner tirades. Throughout, the players breakout into solo and duo sets.

Cline's mood shifts back into tranquility on the acoustic, introspective "Recognize chamber pieces. Likewise, "The Angel Of Angels is a tender ballad.

Before the trio gets to guest percussionist Glenn Kotche on the echoey effects of "Squirrel Of God, they tear into the fifteen minute "Mixed Message. Its electric speed is chilling. Again Hoff holds the fort while Cline fires his speedy technique and Amendola applies the color accents.

There is quite a bit to digest here, maybe even scare the snot out of a few Wilco fans.


Track Listing: Caved-In Heart Blues; Attempted; Confection; An Evening At Pops

Personnel: Nels Cline: electric and acoustic guitars, effects, megamouth; Devin Hoff: contrabass; Scott Amendola: drums, percussion, live electronics/effects; Glenn Kotche: percussion, crotales, glockenspiel (9).

Title: Draw Breath | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Cryptogramophone


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