Friday, September 19, 2003

Nels Cline And Gregg Bendian - Interstellar Space Revisited

Guitarist Nels Cline and drummer Gregg Bendian pay tribute to John Coltrane and Rashied Ali by performing the tracks that make up the Interstellar Space album, which Coltrane and Ali recorded not long before Coltrane's passing in 1967. If you are expecting a gentle tribute to the master from a couple of young lions, you are in for a bit of a shock - Cline and Bendian take the original record as a jumping off point and pay tribute to it in the best way possible, but crafting their own original improvisations from these imposing and inspiring songs.

The music blasts off with Mars and Leo, which feature Cline's snarling guitar intertwined with Bendian's rhythmic drums. The two players work without a net and are definitely locked into one another. This is not completely a free jazz freak out album, there are moments of stark melodic beauty, especially during culminating parts of the Interstellar Space suite, Jupiter and Saturn and the encore cover of an older Coltrane chestnut Lonnie's Lament, during which Bendian switches to vibes to accompany Cline on a beautiful melodic interpretation of this song.

This is a daring and highly successful album and is much recommended to those who enjoy the outer fringes of jazz or improvised music. Rock fans who are looking for an entry point into jazz may be interested as well - it's an energetic album that doesn't let up.

Cline and Bendian are both currently involved with the excellent California label Cryptogramophone, which licenses its output to Emusic. There's a lot of great music there that is definitely worth exploring.

Rating: 9

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