Nels Cline: Reconciliation / New Monastery

Today, Nels Cline is best known for touring the world with Wilco, Chicago's (and America's) finest rock 'n' roll band. But even while tearing it up in Madison Square Garden, he's an avant-garde jazz musician through and through, opting for dense layers of sound and creative rhythmic groupings while improvising with the band. When physically located in the jazz world, his regular group is the Nels Cline Singers, an instrumental outfit consisting of Cline, bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Scott Amendola, often supplemented by a revolving door of free jazz musicians adding textures to the ever-improvising trio.

In 2006, Cline entered the studio with his regular Singers rhythm section plus four (cornet, clarinet, accordion and percussion) to record several Andrew Hill compositions. It's a brilliant musical statement, both in the emergence of Hill as a more-than-worthy subject of a recorded musical tribute, and the perfect sense it makes in examining Cline's inquisitive musical world. The arrangements are thoughtfully first-rate, with Cline often combining more than one Hill composition per track, as here with "Reconciliation" (from Hill's Judgment!) and "New Monastery" (from Hill's Point of Departure). Cline alternates periods of handling melodies himself, as with "Reconciliation," and creating fascinating trading/layering sections between himself and his unusual cohort of cornet, clarinet and accordion (Andrew Hill's own first instrument). The careful layering achieves Hill's dense chordal construction, and, as evidenced in the second half of this track, Cline can choose between adding his guitar to those layers or improvising on top of them. A fitting tribute that enhances the reputation of both the honored and the honoree.

March 11, 2009 · 0 comments


Jobic Le Masson: Hill

The title of this track has nothing to do with geography or landscapes. It's a dedication to the late Andrew Hill, one of Jobic Le Masson's big influences along with Thelonious Monk. And indeed, the angular yet beautiful melody the French pianist has composed is much in the style of those two masters, while having a personal twist. Which figures, since neither Le Masson nor his partners are youngsters. Though this is his first record as a leader, Le Masson is in his early 40s and lived, studied and played in the Boston area in the 1980s before returning to Paris. John Betsch and Peter Giron, fellow American expatriates in Paris, are both seasoned musicians. Besides, this trio has a long history of playing clubs in and around the French capital before they recorded. So naturally they don't sound like your average young hip trio that looks towards either EST or Brad Mehldau. These three know better than to go with the current flow. They have strong roots, tons of musicianship and a vision that goes far beyond the prevalent fads.

January 19, 2009 · 0 comments


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