"B86 (Inkblot Nebula)"
"Thoughts on Caetano"
This one goes out to all the guitar nerds in the house. It's also for the Wilco fans, the jazzers, the gearheads, the experimental-music geeks and the noise-rockers among us. Such is the diverse appeal of Nels Cline, the preposterously skillful and adaptable guitarist's guitarist. To most, Cline is known as the guy who shreds nasty solos in those bright red pants on stage with Wilco. But he's also a big part of the underground rock and free-jazz scenes making challenging and expressive music with countless artists, including those in his current band, The Nels Cline Singers.
Don't let the name fool you: His supporting players, bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Scott Amendola, do not sing. Instead, Cline creates spacious and highly textured, simultaneously beautiful and discordant instrumentals. They're also wholly original. To an untrained ear, these jazz-inflected songs could sound like formless improvisations and bursts of noise. But amidst the sharp single-note runs and occasional feedback, there's a lot of complexity and structure to these dynamic compositions.
Yet it's Cline's nimble guitar work on his Fender Jazzmaster that commands the most attention. It's hard not to get transfixed in his spidery fingerings, or to try to parse his melodic phrasing. Joined here on keys by multi-instrumentalist (and Cibo Matto co-founder) Yuka Honda, Cline and company perform original pieces, including a couple from their superb new double-album Initiate. For the aforementioned guitar geeks who piled in to catch a glimpse of Cline in the NPR Music offices, their short set was a rare and intimate master class from a thoughtful musician.