Friday, April 27, 2018

The Nels Cline 4 - Currents, Constellations (Blue Note, 2018)

Paring things back a bit after last year's surprising large band album Lovers, guitarist and composer Nels Cline convenes a new group, the Nels Cline 4, featuring Julian Lage on guitar, Scott Colley on bass and Tom Rainey on drums. This configuration grew out of the duet album (live video) he made with Lage a few years ago, and their curiosity about what would happen if they added a rhythm section. The results are quite impressive, giving the group the opportunity to be free and adventurous, while maintaining a melodic framework. "Furtive" opens the album with a blast of guitar and solo drum treatment, with the bass building a foundation for the guitars to follow. Those guitars flutter and occasionally sting like a cloud of wasps, and the interplay between all of the musicians is complex and exciting building to a fast paced conclusion. There is a dynamic shift between bright and dark on "Swing Ghost 69" with the bouncy guitar interplay and choppy bass and drums driving the performance forward motion. Thick and elastic bass is the glue holding the improvisation together, with sharp pinpricks of guitar notes fluttering around the bass and drums. That strong focus is also at play on "Imperfect 10," where the group builds a strong and powerful momentum that is throttled back for a more open and breathing section. One guitar melds with the bass and drums for a stoic rhythm while the other rides high, soloing in a spirited fashion, before everyone comes back together for a powerhouse finish. "Amenette" has a rich dynamic range, moving from jolts of fast paced modern jazz to stretches of solo bass, the music alternates between open and closed, coming together with a memorable collective improvisation. The music never shrieks or howls, yet it develops a fierce intensity all it's own, enveloping a short crisp drum solo, and effects enhanced guitar playing in a surprising and interesting performance. Unfolding episodically, "River Mouth (Parts 1 and 2) opens with a majestic and rejoicing series of guitar chimes that builds in a naturalistic fashion like the rising sun, hinting at early Metheny like shininess. The bass and percussion gradually come in, filling out the sound as the pace gradually increases. The weaving of the instruments is very impressive, creating a whole cloth in the process of their full band improvisation. Currents, Constellations -

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