The Nels Cline Four

Carré 150, Victoriaville QC, May 21

Photo: Martin Morissette

BY Byron ColeyPublished May 22, 2017

The program said this new band led by guitarist Nels Cline (most famous for his work with Wilco, but a jazzbo of long-standing) would have something of a Jim Hall thing going on. And while that was true on the cover tunes (two by Paul Motian, one by Carla Bley), the basic guitar sound was vastly wilder than that. I was reminded of Blood Ulmer in the early Prime Time days, and also John McLaughlin just before he became Mahavishnu. This stuff was blazing.
The rest of the band were equally exceptional. Guitarist Julien Lage (who worked with Gary Burton) doubled with Cline, and they traded places without a glitch. Bassist Scott Colley (who also worked with Burton, among many others) was fantastically powerful, bending the upright to his will with both rumbling arco blasts and extremely strong plucking. Drummer Tom Rainey (who has worked with Cline on and off for decades) showed off a wonderful multi-directional technique that made me think of a more mature Chris Corsano (albeit with a more overtly jazzoid disposition).
Together they created ferocious music, much of it at breakneck speed, full of changes in direction and mode. On one of my favourite pieces they switched back and forth between a twinned guitar run that sounded like a Charlie Christian riff from his Benny Goodman days, and full band riffs that sounded more like Steppenwolf. It was a brainstorm of a set.

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