Design By Humans
Published On: Thu, Oct 6th, 2016

Nels Cline: Lovers

nelsNels Cline
(Blue Note Records)

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Nels Cline is neither a musician who sets genre-related boundaries for himself, nor is he an artist who places much importance on so-called logical career paths within a community, which is for him the arena of improvisational jazz guitar. His highly successful journey through the jazz world, which included an honor from the California Music Awards in 1999 naming him Outstanding Jazz Artist, might be viewed by some as a stepping stone along the way to joining Wilco in 2004. Cline is not interested in leaving his jazz-playing days behind though having recently signed with Blue Note to produce Lovers, which delivers an orchestral sound courtesy of the 23-member ensemble he recruited to help him record it. On “Beautiful Love,” Cline’s exhibition of such a high degree of control over a wide range is impressive on its own. Equally noteworthy is the direction he provides on “Hairpin & Hatbox” to mirror his own phrasing. With “Cry, Want,” Cline keeps the soft percussion, bass and trumpet in the background, giving him freedom to explore his seemingly limitless range. Less expansive, but still resonant is “Lady Gabor,” which allows the ensemble to revolve around a simple, rhythmic bass line. The subdued presence of improvisational jazz on the album makes it a welcoming introduction to the genre. “Secret Love” represents a lean toward the experimental, the brass section mimicking a deep-sounding heartbeat while the guitar flutters high above. “The Bed We Made” balances out the free-form adventure with more of an acoustic, almost classical guitar feel. This is music that can stretch the passageways in your mind that seem to grow stagnant over time. Listening with an open mind can be challenging, but if you can do so, you’ll be rewarded with ninety minutes of pure sonic therapy.

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Nels Cline: Lovers