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Nels Cline at the Vortex

Nels Cline Quartet

When I told Nels Cline that there had been moments during the two sets he’d just performed with his quartet that had made me burst out laughing with sheer pleasure, he said that it was how he’d often felt while playing with the band’s other guitarist, Julian Lage, over the past five or six years.

But it was more than just the interplay of Jazzmaster and Telecaster that made it a special night at the Vortex. This a real group, a four-way thing, in which the drummer, Tom Rainey, and the bassist, Jorge Roeder, play equally significant roles in determining the direction and dynamics of the music. And for an hour and a half they communicated the joy to be had when such a process works so well.

They played a number of the Cline compositions featured on their new album — Currents, Constellations (Blue Note) — including a luscious wandering ballad called “As Close As That”, the jaunty, jagged “Swing Ghost ’59” and the two-part “River Mouth”, which started with a limpid pastorale before moving into a kind of raga-rock drone, with some of the stunning unison two-guitar written parts which were a feature of the night. Other pieces included Carla Bley’s “Temporarily”, a Paul Motian medley of “Conception Vessel” and “The Owl of Cranston”, and John Abercrombie’s “Memoir”, originally a solo piece but here opening the evening in the form of a guitar duet.

I haven’t enjoyed hearing two guitars play off each other as much since Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd were together in Television, or Bill Frisell and Ry Cooder recorded “Shenandoah” for the former’s Good Dog, Happy Man. All sorts of things were happening pretty much all the time, largely thanks to the set-up of the band, a structure devised with enthusiasm and imagination which Cline seems to put into all his projects. The music was full of surprises, things that made you gasp as well as laugh. The strength and drive of Roeder (replacing Scott Colley, who plays on the album) were a revelation, while Rainey is the only drummer who has ever reminded me of Han Bennink: swinging like the clappers but with enormous sensitivity and a deadpan wit.

A tremendous night all round, noisily appreciated by a packed house. A great album, too, for those who weren’t there.

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Peter Freeman #

    A wonderful night of music played by four musicians at the top of the game , blistering guitar work from two masters, with Tom and Jorge a rhythm section of the highest. A rammed vortex was left breathless.p

    April 25, 2018
  2. Richard: there is also a terrific Nels Cline 4 live session (same line-up, though yes, with Scott Colley on bass), recorded last week at Paste Studio in New York, available at the following link, for anyone who’s interested and couldn’t make the Vortex gig…

    April 25, 2018
  3. GuitarSlinger #

    Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz

    Julian Lage and Chris ( critter ) Eldridge

    Duane Allman and Dicky Betts

    Nuff said .

    April 25, 2018
  4. How about Frisell and Scofield on Marc Johnson’s Bass Desires albums on ECM? The second one in particular has some outstanding, telepathic guitar interplay.

    April 26, 2018
    • GuitarSlinger #

      Agreed … along with Bill and Pat Metheny ( those two should put aside their egos and their labels and record more often ) on MJ’s Bass Desires ” Sounds of Summer Running ” ( ECM ) … Robert Fripp and Andy Summers.. ” I Advanced Masked ” .. Pat Metheny and Jim Hall , Leo Kottke and Ben Verdery , John Renbourn and Bert Jansch etc et al …….

      Good lord … I could spend an entire morning coming up with all the phenomenal guitar duos in rock , jazz and crossover I’ve heard/seen over the decades .

      But as far as Bill is concerned … I’ve been following his career since day one ( we share a common teacher / mentor ) and to date the BEST I’ve ever seen Bill live .. guitar duo or not … was the duo tour he did in the mid 2000’s with Greg Leisz . Pure , sublime unadulterated Bill playing with perhaps the most sympathetic partner he’s ever recorded / toured with .

      April 26, 2018
  5. Hey Richard. I was at the Vortex gig too and felt the fun radiating from the stage. Also picked up the Television angle too. Here’s my own blog post. Hope you enjoy – thanks:

    April 26, 2018
    • I enjoyed your post, particularly the comment about eye contact between the musicians. Thanks.

      April 26, 2018

    Hi Richard Just thought I’d send you a belated thank you, not only for thebluemoment, but the books and the great reviews and articles written over decades. As a teenager in the late 60’s I’d travel 70 miles by train to buy Melody Maker etc and to scour the specialist record stores for the latest imports. I read all the Ornette, Miles, AACM, Cecil Taylor and beyond reviews, buying many, only to really “get them” quite a bit later, but it was a fantastic education and journey of discovery, so thank you for all that too. After University, in 1976 I opened my own store in Ballarat only selling the music I loved. 42 years later I’m still doing it, although we had to diversify in ’86 as idealism alone couldn’t pay the bills. Our cafe/ record shop L’espresso is pretty well known over here, I’ve been lucky to be able to continue. Anyhow, thank you for all the beautiful writing, good luck with the new books, and I look forward to the return of thebluemoment I might even run in to you at Cafe Oto some time soon. My 17 year old daughter has been accepted into the Rambert School of Contemporary Dance and Ballet in London starting in September so I’m planning on spending the 1st few months with her, we’re presently looking for accommodation that’s not going to kill us financially ( not easy it appears) Anyway, good luck and heres to chance meetings

    Warm Regards Greg Wood

    June 23, 2018

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