Nels Cline: Downpour, Draw Breath, Smoke Inside and Duo Milano


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Nels Cline/Andrea Parkins/Tom Rainey

Nels Cline Singers
Draw Breath

Daniele Cavallanti Electric Unit
Smoke Inside
Long Song

Nels Cline/Elliott Sharp
Duo Milano
Long Song

Jazz music has seen its fair share of genre-straddlers, but Nels Cline takes the prize. In 2006, the Los Angeles based guitarist released his critically acclaimed album New Monastery: A View into the Music of Andrew Hill, toured the world with Wilco and was named a "guitar god by Rolling Stone. Such crossover success has its precedent, but rarely in one with Cline's strong avant-garde leanings and a batch of recent releases makes it clear he is not about to trade creativity for popularity.

Seven minutes into "Downpour 1 , the two-part improvisation that encompasses the bulk of Downpour, Cline's guitar emerges from a mechanized haze of dissonance. Over Tom Rainey's insistent, disjointed drum groove, his guitar dryly spits out a few notes before falling back into the fray. The set, recorded live at the 2006 Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville, obliterates expectations. Electric sounds blend to the point where individual instruments become indiscernible; there are no predictable climaxes or arc to follow, the 30+ minute improvisation gains devastating momentum before breaking up in a trebly hiss, only to restart again.

The amazing aspect of Downpour is that the individual parts are never lost to the greater sum. Through Cline's warbling tremolo, Andrea Parkins' doleful accordion strains or the marshalling beat of Rainey's snare, humanity asserts itself amid screeching metal, phased sirens and pulsing bass. Rainey is the driving force on the date, consistently pushing Cline and Parkins to emotive highs while directing traffic at the intersection of jazz, metal, punk and free improv.

Equally eclectic and thrilling is Draw Breath. With bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Scott Amendola, Cline revels in the distinct milieu evoked by each of his nine original compositions. Indeed, each track seems to have little to do with the one proceeding or following it and the result is refreshing. The alt-rock hook of "Confection is surprising after the distorted swing of "Attempted , but somehow it works. Cline's line is infectious and the feel is never contrived.

"Recognize I & II are striking vehicles for Cline's acoustic guitar and also feature the deft ensemble work of Hoff and Amendola. The bassist's lines interweave with Cline's on "Recognize II before climbing to the woody top of his register over dulcet guitar voicings and the assured brush of Amendola's snare. Draw Breath ends with "Squirrel of God on which Wilco percussionist Glenn Kotche makes a guest appearance. From a nebulous beginning of percussive guitar and random electronic effects, "Squirrel blossoms, growing with the addition of each voice until Cline is furiously strumming amid Kotche's ringing glockenspiel and the deep pulse of Hoff's bass.

As a sideman, Cline is no less adventurous. His guitar snakes through the opening silence of Daniele Cavallanti's Smoke Inside, before the leader's smoky tenor gives chase. "Cline's Line is a fusion anthem, complete with spacey Rhodes, electric bass and pulsing rock beat. After the band enters, Cline cuts a jagged course, sparring briefly with Cavallanti before taking the lead all the way to the finish.

Smoke Inside "is electric jazz: pre-fusion... pre-crappy, says Cline of Cavallanti's "Electric Unit . The vibe is old school, but the playing is distinctly modern. Cavallanti positively burns on "Moods for Dewey , driven by Cline and the relentless groove of drummer Pacho. The intensity rarely wanes through the album's six tracks and Cavallanti's "Electric Unit shows the potential of jazz-rock in capable hands.

Duo Milano features Cline and multi- instrumentalist Elliott Sharp in a series of acoustic/electric duets that strive for — and very often achieve — a kind of telepathic oneness. "Our playing together resonates in such a way as to create the sound of one seething bubbling bristling glowing instrument, says Sharp of his rapport with Cline. Indeed, the two are often indiscernible from each other in both the acoustic and electric settings. The two reach incredible heights over ten improvisations, immersed in the intimacy of the setting and reaching toward a common artistic vision.

Tracks and Personnel


Tracks: Downpour 1; Downpour 2; Moss, Bed.

Personnel: Nels Cline: guitar; Andrea Parkins: accordion, piano; Tom Rainey: drums.

Draw Breath

Tracks: Caved-In Heart Blues; Attempted; Confection; An Evening At Pops'; The Angel of Angels; Recognize I; Mixed Message; Recognize II; Squirrel of God.

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

Smoke Inside

Tracks: Cline's Line; Ahimsa; Moods For Dewey; Lonesome Drive; Fabrizio's Mood; Go On Moses.

Personnel: Daniele Cavallanti: tenor sax; Nels Cline: electric guitar; Ivano Borgazzi: rhodes piano, keyboards; Giovanni Maier: bass; Pacho: percussion; Tiziano Tononi: drums.

Duo Milano

Tracks: Bug Or Feature; Unseen; Strain 121; Balsam; Dot Dash; Bludget; Cobblescrabble; Acetylene Panorama; Mutha Blooter; Fingernests.

Personnel: Nels Cline, Elliott Sharp: guitar.


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