Last Call Review: Nels Cline Singers / Macroscope / Mack Avenue Records

May 2, 2014

One of the most adventuresome and dynamic guitarists in jazz or rock is Nels Cline.  Active since 1977 in a wide variety of genres, he is the guitarist for the alternative rock band, Wilco. Cline's command of the guitar is such that Spin magazine in 2012 named him the 43rd greatest guitarist of all time. He is also the leader of the Nels Cline Singers, a band which has explored the frontiers of jazz music on several recordings over the last decade.

Nels Cline's early inspiration was a recording of Jimi Hendrix performing "Manic Depression". That experience led to Cline's decision to become a guitarist. Like Hendrix, Cline is known for his ability to freely improvise on the instrument as well as use effects pedals to create a distinctive individual sound. This is aided by modern day looping devices. The result is a brisk,  relentless attack, well suited for punk, rock-- or progressive jazz settings.

In Macroscope, Cline's virtuoso guitar work is in full display in a series of ten shifting musical scenes.  On one song, Cline and his band may paint the simple beauty of acoustic "big sky" music. The next song may find them at the cutting edge of white hot jazz rock and electronica.  At times this jarring shift of mood may take place in the same song!   "Canales' Cabenza" has an easy groove, and the accelerated pulse of "Red Before Orange" is a forecast of things to come. On "Seven Zed Heaven" a wall of sound and percussion is created by Cline and his associates. "Hairy Mother" features the band at full tilt with the leader using a     Quintronics Drum Buddy for a garage rock sonic explosion.

The band's personnel include: Nels Cline: guitars, effects, voice, Quintronics Drum Buddy; Scott Amendola: drums, percussion, electronic treatments/loops; Trevor Dunn: basses, effects; Yuka C. Honda: electric piano, OP-1; Cyro Baptista: percussion universe; Josh Jones: congas and percussion; Zeena Parkins: electric harp.

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