Jim McAuley The Ultimate Frog

Jim McAuley The Ultimate Frog
Six years in the making, The Ultimate Frog is a hauntingly heartfelt feat, rescuing Los Angeles guitarist Jim McAuley from obscurity for duo compositions and improvisations with Leroy Jenkins, Ken Filiano, Nels Cline and Alex Cline. While his musical history spans decades, including ’70s session work with Frank Sinatra, McAuley’s been virtually invisible. Disgusted with the music biz, he withdrew professionally. Aside from his 2002 Acoustic Guitar Trio debut release (with the late Rod Poole and Nels Cline) and 2005’s solo excursion, Gongfarmer 18, The Ultimate Frog is McAuley’s only official release. Inspired by his late wife and mired in mourning, this double record culled from four individual sessions brims with vitality. Improvisations with late violinist Jenkins are conversational, the two players complementing and defying each other beautifully. Filiano’s (prepared) bass offers McAuley a steady jazz foundation to slide across. Nels Cline seems capable of anything musically and he and McAuley feed off each other, creating electricity and post-industrial blues with just their hands, wires and wood. Finally, percussionist Alex Cline is a subtle, multi-directional force, crashing and tapping with equal sensitivity to McAuley’s picking and modal, stringed forays. Whether a comeback or a swansong, The Ultimate Frog serves Jim McAuley well.

How’d this project come about?
I always loved Leroy Jenkins’ playing and we ended up recording a CD’s worth of duets, which sat in the can for a while. Later, I thought to surround it with other duets. Once certain pieces were in place, for the feel of the album, I thought other pieces would be nice.

What’s The Ultimate Frog?
The whole album is connected to my wife, Nika, who died about a year ago. In fact, we did the sessions with Nels and a week later she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. So, all of the titles relate to her and our relationship. Frogs were her favourite things so it became The Ultimate Frog. In a way, it’s my love letter to her and I didn’t want to reveal the personal things necessarily.

Why make so few records?
Living in L.A., my music wasn’t accepted so I decided to play for myself. As times change, people have been more accepting of different kinds of music. I think the turning point was the Guitar Trio, because I felt so at home and realized it was a viable option. I’m a very late bloomer, you might say. (Drip Audio)