Published May 17, 2015My preferred way to see Nels Cline is in a duo or trio setting. While he's best known for his years spent with Wilco, it's his life's work as a hard-edged improviser and composer that are key. Despite the fact he has worked with many large bands, the small ones showcase his weird thinking and playing at its best.
For tonight's concert (May 16), Cline enlisted a pretty insane septet, with harpist Zeena Parkins, percussionist Cyro Baptista, guitarist Marc Ribot, drummer Scott Amendola, bassist Trevor Dunn and keyboardist Brian Marcella. They're all monster players, and while Cline joked about "the dictatorship of my heavy-handed compositions," the concert was highly democratic. Everyone got plenty of solo space, as the set was arranged like a classic Blue Note blowing date, except with lots of freaks on the bandstand.
There was a plenty of head-solo-solo-head organization (or so it seemed to me), which meant there were only a few spots where Cline got a chance to excise his own demons. But it's not like you can really complain when you get a chance to watch Zeena Parkins shred, so what the hell?