Nels Cline: guitar; Michael Leonhart: trumpet; Steven Bernstein: trumpet; Alan Ferber: trombone: Charles Pillow: reeds; Ben Goldberg: clarinets; Julian Lage: guitar; Jeff Gauthier: violin; Kenny Wollesen: vibraphone; Zeena Parkins: harp; Erik Friedlander: cello; Davin Hoff: bass; Alex Cline: drums, etc.
Innovative, ingenious, and thought-provoking are all suitable descriptive words to define the 61-year-old American guitarist Nels Cline whose career embraces a variety of styles and projects.
With an instinctive inclination to explore, Cline has consolidated his position as one of the most exciting contemporary guitarists and bandleaders out there.
A few years ago, he was shaping the progressive folk-jazz of Quartet Music, probing modern creative directions alongside Tim Berne and Vinny Golia, offering robust layers to the alternative country-rock of the Chicago-based band Wilco, blowing our minds with his subliminal avant-garde group Nels Cline Singers, and roaming unrestrictedly with his fellow, and much different guitarist, Julian Lage, with whom he associated with in 2014 to record Room.
Lage is part of the all-star ensemble gathered by Cline in order to build Lovers, his debut on Blue Note Records.
Under the conduction of trumpeter-arranger Michael Leonhart, the recording session counted on stars such as vibraphonist Kenny Wollesen, violinist Jeff Gauthier, horn players Seven Bernstein, Ben Goldberg, and Alan Ferber, harpist Zeena Parkins, bassist Devin Hoff, and Nels’s twin brother Alex Cline in the drummer’s chair.
The very personal selection of songs conveys an unexpected romanticism, so atypical of Cline's former projects.
Besides a few beautifully orchestrated standards such as “Glad to be Unhappy”, “Secret Love”, “Why Was I Born?”, and “Invitation”, which was immaculately arranged with sounds and rhythms associated with Sun Ra, the recording brings us five originals by the bandleader. “Hairpin & Hatbox” captivates due to a sweet melody placed on top of balmy harmonies, while the dreamy “The Bond”, interlacing acoustic and electric sounds, ends with a chord progression proper of a pop song.
Other rich interpretations of compositions from disparate artists were included: Jimmy Giuffre’s blues-rooted “Cry Want” starts with a solo guitar ostinato, gradually being thickened with background layers of instrumentation; Sonic Youth’s “Snare, Girl” was handled with a tribal rhythm, straight melody, and psychedelic vibes; Gabor Szabo’s 6/4-metered “Lady Gabor”, spiced by Zeena Parkin’s harp, flows assertively with groove.
Completely divergent in mood “It Only Has to Happen Once”, a song by the eclectic duo Ambitious Lovers, is propelled by steady beats, gaining a chill-out mood and a propensity for tango in the same line of Thievery Corporation.
This is one of those typical cases where the past is brought into the present with completely different colors, blurring the line of time and genre. Nels Cline's conscientious dedication to this album is quite evident. Shifting musical tastes, polished arrangements, and a combination of textures and flows are put to work in Lovers, providing safe listenings.
06 – Lady Gabor ► 13 – It Only Has to Happen Once ► 15 – Snare, Girl