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February 2009 Archives

February 3, 2009

Cryptonight at MONA

THE ECLIPSE QUARTET PERFORMS THE MUSIC OF JOHN ZORN, JOHN KING AND JEFF GAUTHIER

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Friday Night February 6th - 8PM
Museum of Neon Art
136 W. 4th St., LA 90013
Tel. (213) 489-9918
Tickets are $10 at the Door
Free parking is available on the street, or in two paid lots 1/2 block away.
For more information and a map, please go to: www.neonmona.org

Sara Parkins - violin
Sarah Thornblade - violin
Alma Fernandez - viola
Maggie Parkins - cello

plus guests:
Jeff Gauthier - violin, electronics
David Witham - piano, keyboards, electronics

The Eclipse Quartet is an exciting new music ensemble dedicated to the music of present day composers, and to creating music in improvisational settings. This quartet is made up of four women with strong backgrounds in international and national chamber music performance, new music, and recording. Their combined experience represents a wide range of musical styles and collaborations.

The first half of the concert The Eclipse Quartet will present string quartets by New York composers John Zorn and John King. The second half will be an improvisational collaboration as the quartet plugs in to play music by Jeff Gauthier, and to improvise with Gauthier on electric violin, and David Witham on electronics and keyboards. Together these musicians will create spontaneously composed music inspired by the amazing neon art on display at MONA.

February 9, 2009

OBLITERATING TIME: The Downbeast Interview with Alex Cline

Alex Cline has a musical sensibility and sensitivity that belong to another time... a time when intimate thoughts were best expressed by someone sitting down, setting pen to paper, and sending their innermost feelings by land or sea, to be read by the intended a few days or weeks later... in short, a time when ‘time’ really counted.
Peter Erskine

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Percussionist Alex Cline has a split musical personality, and one half of it is NOT an identical twin named “Nels.” On the one hand he is a timekeeper in the classic jazz tradition, accompanying a Murderer’s Row of lions like Arthur Blythe, Henry Grimes, Charlie Haden, Charles Lloyd, Buddy Collette, Wadada Leo Smith, Marty Ehrlich, Baikida Carroll, Julius Hemphill and Jamil Shabaka as well as the holy L.A. avant-garde triumvirate of Horace Tapscott, John Carter and Bobby Bradford -- and that’s just the tip of the ‘berg.

On the other hand, he creates epic sound experiments with his now-mythic arsenal of percussion instruments (both found and bought) that completely erase the idea of Time As We Know It. Listening to an Alex Cline composition is like being dropped sightless into a cave and being tasked with finding your way out—a sense of dislocation that can be as liberating as it is mysterious and challenging. Michael Bettine of Jazz Review referred to him not as a drummer but “an orchestrator of sounds.” AAJ’s John Kelman confirmed that Cline’s waterfall of sonic textures “are meant to be experienced rather than simply heard.”

“The key thing to what I do,” Alex told L.A. Citybeat’s Kirk Silsbee in 2007, “is two extremes – jazz drum set player and exotic sound-making person. There’s this big expanse in between where unorthodox approaches and rhythmic ideas meet. These are blended vocabularies.”

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Alex in action (note the bundt-cake pans on the left)

“Blended vocabularies” may be the key to Cline’s approach, as he is not only a musician/composer but a visual artist, oral historian, teacher, curator for his own music series and composer/collaborator for numerous modern dance-theatre troupes. Oh yes, and he also recently became a daddy.

Not surprisingly, Alex has not made an album as a bandleader/composer since 2001’s The Constant Flame. His new record Continuation (due out tomorrow) is exactly what its title connotes: an extending of the musical ideas he has been exploring since 1987's The Lamp and The Star, his debut as a bandleader. At the same time, he has injected new blood into the proceedings with the creation of the Continuation Quintet, which retains Alex’s familiar collaborators, violinist and Crypto head honcho Jeff Gauthier and bassist Scott Walton, with the addition of cellist Peggy Lee and keyboardist Myra Melford. (Go here for The Beast’s account of Day 2 of the Continuation sessions.)

An homage for those here and beyond resides at the heart of each of the new CD's seven offerings, evoking the shared histories of music and maternity (Nels and Alex’s mother Thelma Cline passed away one day before her 92nd birthday on December 24th, 2007) and the paradoxical celebration of loss, particularly the passings of fellow percussionists Ron George and Dan Morris. (Go here to read Alex's tribute to Dan Morris.)

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That the album goes to dark places but doesn't drown in them is not just an example of Cline’s buoyant spirituality but also the addition of his daughter, Naomi Xinwan Padma Cline. Her presence (she is pictured on the album peeking playfully out from the quintet's ranks) injects a vital thread that runs through Continuation like a literal life line. On Continuation, Alex’s compositions and percussion work continue to defy any strict notions of style, geographical region and form, though all come into play in his fluid conceptions. “Nourishing our Roots” and “Open Hands (Receive, Release)” bookend the disc with softly pillowed punctuations of timbre, notes and tones flowing into one another with quiet grace and maturity. Gauthier’s radiantly soft violin, Walton’s stalwartly inventive bass and Lee’s rich cello often sound as one instrument, gliding through Alex’s melodies with calm conviction, Melford’s spacious pianism and washes of harmonium cushioning each sonority. The musicians can breathe fire, as when certain “jazzy” sections of “On the Bones of the Homegoing Thunder” rear up only to be swallowed again by the rumble and pulse of a gong or the endlessly penetrating decay of a triangle or Noah bell. Continuation is replete with such moments, subtle and breathtaking shifts in timbre, texture and mood that bespeak dance, meditation and the way in which polarities merge to form the infinite simplicity invoked in every moment of this stunning collection of music.
(Click here to read John Kelman’s review of Continuation and a video of Alex in action with Vinny Golia and Jie Ma)

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The Boys

Then there’s that unavoidable “identical twin” thing he shares with his brother, guitarist Nels—the much published (and perhaps overly fawned over) fact that they became so attuned to each other’s musical sensibilities, especially during their tenure in the chamber-jazz ensemble Quartet Music, that they could literally “tell” what the other was going to play before they played it. Which pretty much made the idea of "improvising" all but moot, and which might have something to do with the fact that the brothers have never made a duo record together and have only performed together as a duo THREE times in the last 35 years. The last time they did was a memorable show last month in San Diego, which drew a capacity crowd matched by the last two times they played together: the mammoth celebrations for their 40th and 50th birthdays.

“Frankly, the novelty of two identical twins making wacky music together has to have some sort of impact on the turnout for those shows,” Alex says. “Nels and I have been doing this since at least the late 1970s, and it’s taken 30 years for people to catch on to this novelty as having any real significance. Somehow it wasn’t so compelling back in the proverbial day. I don’t know why. Downbeat did a profile of us back in 1982 and it wasn’t treated with any kind of sensationalist flair. It really has happened more recently for some reason. I always now look at these things with certain awareness that, to quote my brother, ‘We can thank Uncle Wilco for a certain amount of audience interest.’ Part of it may be just that now we’ve been around long enough and have track records both individually or collectively. Maybe when you get older people feel they ought to do something before you die.” He laughs. “Maybe they feel sorry for you!”
(Go here to read Jeff Gauthier’s essay on “The Twin Unavoidability Factor.")

Downbeast recently sat down with Alex in his L.A. home over a cup of Taiwanese "green" oolong (a.k.a. "spring tea”) while his cats Gordon Lightfoot (no relation) and Fiona slithered around his ankles.

Continue reading "OBLITERATING TIME: The Downbeast Interview with Alex Cline" »

February 10, 2009

C + C Music Factory Now Open For Business

Cline + Cline proudly announce the first time EVER that their seperate (yet strangely singular) efforts have been joined for one release date.

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Pick up your freshly minted shrink-wrapped copies of Alex Cline's Continuation and Nels Cline's Coward at IndieJazz, Greenleaf Music, Amazon or the Cryptogramophone Homepage.

Check out an exclusive interview with Alex here and stay tuned for an upcoming exlcusive chat with Nels.

February 12, 2009

“A COOL HEAD DOES NOT ALWAYS PREVAIL”: The Downbeast Interview with Nels Cline

I seek new sounds
because new sounds
seek me

-Joseph Jarman

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OK, shall we get the twin thing over with first?

The first time I interviewed them was 10 years ago at the Chado Tea Room in West Hollywood. I watched their interaction over the menu with some fascination as Alex turned to Nels and asked, “Do you need tea guidance?” I also noticed how different they were. Alex seemed like Sting after transcendental meditation or an unusually heavy Tantric workout: calm Zen-master eyes behind wire-rimmed specs, hands folded on lap, carefully thought-out answers. Nels, on the other hand, was like a live electrical wire exposed and wrapped in black tape: intense eyes, intense way of sitting forward and speaking so fast that he interrupted himself, a vaguely tormented air about him, so honest and open that it took me aback a bit. I actually think I saw sparks come out of his head.

That I interviewed them again exactly 10 years later wasn’t planned – it was just one of those bizarre coincidental things that just “happened,” which is par for the course when you are dealing with these gentlemen. Take their current pair of solo projects: Alex’s Continuation and Nels’ Coward, both released this week. Both projects were unintentionally recorded in the same week, both album titles begin with the letter C, and both composers chose paintings by women artists for their album covers. Both albums make references to orchids. Both contain two pieces that are 18 minutes long. Both have one piece that is over 15 years old. Drones are featured in several pieces on both CDs. The original designs of both CD discs were (again, unintentionally) practically identical, although Nels's was changed because of this. Alex's was recorded at Burbank's Glenwood Place, which started out in the 1970s as Kendun Recorders and was where Nels recorded his first album as a leader, Angelica.

And finally, Alex's CD is about 7 minutes longer than Nels's. Not a coincidence, you say? Maybe not, unless you consider that Nels is about 7 minutes older than Alex.

Messes with your head, doesn’t it?

But the concept of "identical twins" is a deceptive one: they reflect back similar states with opposite qualities. Examples: Alex is right-handed, Nels is left-handed; Alex's hair parts naturally on the left; Nels's on the right. The first time either of them had a cavity in their mouths, it was in the same year, opposite teeth. ”Alex and I kind of had different personalities all along, but we kind of switched at one point," Nels told an interviewer in 2003. "Alex was pretty affable and gregarious in elementary school and junior high...I was more reserved growing up and I kind of came out of my shell in my early 20s. Most people who meet me now can’t believe there was a time when I rarely spoke in social situations.”

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Again, what is most striking about the Clines' new CDs is the individuality of their expressions. In both cases the music is intensely personal, and obliquely autobiographical. Yet despite the above coincidences, one is amazed by how radically different Nels and Alex's musical expressions are. Nels's CD is a solo/overdub effort, perhaps more rooted in the acoustic side of his musicianship than many of his fans might expect. He plays a plethora of instruments from acoustic and electric guitars, to zithers, effects, and the Quintronics Drum Buddy (go ahead, google it).

The title Coward is an odd one, given the sheer audacity of the sounds contained within and almost overflowing from this bit of plastic. As with Alex’s contribution, their late mother Thelma's penchant for growing orchids is immortalized in the transparently droney album closer, “Cymbidium.” Homage is here in force, one of the disc’s most emotionally charged pieces, “Rod Poole’s Gradual Ascent to Heaven,” paying tribute to the L.A.-based microtonal guitarist who was brutally murdered near his home some two years ago. Nels’ austere and brooding explorations of microtones on “Ascent” is counterbalanced by the whimsical slides, jumps and hiccups that pervade “Thurston County,” dedicated to his friend Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. As Nels has been contemplating a solo overdub project for nearly 25 years, several older compositions, including the dreamy and harmonically complex “Prayer Wheel,” make appearances here.
(Go here for Nels’ extended notes on each of the tracks on Coward.)

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Nothing, however, prepares adequately for the stunningly diverse “Onan Suite,” which is, according to Nels, the most self-indulgent thing he’s ever done. Of this six-part sonically diverse epic he will say no more, save raising four possibilities, “Fact, fiction, biography, or autobiography? You be the judge!” He goes all out, incorporating such unique instruments as the Drum Buddy, a hybrid of drum machine and turntable, in the raucous penultimate movement and in “Onan”’s high-powered rumbler opening, “Amniotica.” There, distant voices and snatches of disembodied sound complexes drift by, capturing Nels’ diverse sonic landscapes in wild microcosm.

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Just days after we interviewed Mr. Alex, Downbeast had a chance to sit down with Mr. Nels at Mike & Anne’s bistro in Pasadena. Unfortunately, because of his endlessly kinetic schedule, he only had about an hour. (He was due to return to Chicago to continue his lead-guitarist duties for Wilco). As always, the man who refers to himself as "Nervous Nellie" was a blur even when he was sitting down.
(Go here for Nels’ accounts of his upcoming projects with "Uncle Wilco" and others.)

Continue reading "“A COOL HEAD DOES NOT ALWAYS PREVAIL”: The Downbeast Interview with Nels Cline" »

February 15, 2009

The Clines on NPR

For Nels And Alex Cline, An Avant-Jazz Fraternity.

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Check out the L.A Weekly's twin reviews of Coward and Continuation here.

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Adam Rudolph Alex Cline's Band of the Moment Alex Cline; Nels Cline: Alex & Nels Cline; Downbeat; Continuation; Coward Alma Lisa Fernandez Andrew Hill Angel City Jazz Festival 2009 Angel City Jazz Festival 2009 Live Review (Day 1) Angel City Jazz Festival 2009 Live Review (Day 2) Angel City Jazz Festival 2009 Photos Antonio Sanchez avant-garde Bard Hoff Ben Goldberg Bennie Maupin Bennie Maupin & Dolphyana Bill Stewart Billy Childs Jazz-Chamber Ensemble Billy Corgan Billy Hart Black Metal Bob Sheppard Bobby English Brent Hoff California Jazz Foundation Cameron Graves Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band Carla Bozulich Carol Robbins Charles Mingus; Son of Watts Musical Caravan Project; Azar Lawrence; Nate Morgan; Henry Franklin; Alphonse Mouzon; Prayer for My Ancestors Charles Owens Charlie Hunter Chops: The Movie Chris Barton Cryptogramophone Cryptogramophone Records Cryptogramophonr Records Cryptonight Darek Oles Dave Douglas Brass Ecstasy David Anderson Pianos David Breskin David Witham Denman Maroney Dennis Callaci Devin Hoff Dirty Baby Double M Jazz Salon Downbeat 57th Annual Critics Poll draw breath Dwight Trible Eagle Rock Center for the Arts Eclipse Quartet Ed Ruscha Edward Vesala Electric Lodge Eric Dolphy Eric Von Essen First Friday Series at the Museum of Neon Art G.E. Stinson Geraldine Fibbers Glenn Kotche Global Village Monday with Maggie LePique Go: Organic Orchestra Gravitas Quartet Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival; Peter Erskine Greg Kot Gregg Bendian Guy Klucevsek Hale Smith Hannah Rothschild Hans Fjellstad Harry Partch; L.A. Weekly; John Schneider; REDCAT Henry Grimes Horace Tapscott Horace Tapscott; Horace Tapscott Tribute Concert; Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra; the Ark; Jazz Bakery; Ruth Price; Jesse Sharps; Austin Peralta; Isaac Smith Howard Roberts Huffington Post Hugh Hopper Ikeda Kings Orchestra improvisation Initiate Instrumentals Ivan Cotton James Newton Jason Robinson Jay Bennett Jay Hoggard jazz Jazz at the Plgrimage Jazz Bakery Jazz Explosion III Jazz Journey with Eddie B. Jeff Gauthier Jeff Tweedy Jesse Sharps Jim Black Joe Zawinul John "Drumbo" French John Fumo Kamasi Washington Ken Coomer Ken Kawamura KJAZZ 88.1-FM KPFK 90.7-FM KXLU 88.9-FM L. Stinkbug Larry Goldings Larry Karush Larry Koonse Learning How To Die Leimert Park: The Roots and Branches of L.A. Jazz Les Paul Lester Bowie Lily Burk Memorial Live at the Atelier Los Angeles New Music Ensemble Los Angeles Times Luis Bonilla Maggie Parkins Marcus Rojas Mark Dresser Mark Linkous Mark Zaleski Matt Ritvo Matthew Duersten Mel Morris Michael Davis Michael Session Miguel Atwood-Ferguson Mimi Melnick Motoko Honda Museum of Neon Art Museum of Neon Art; MONA; Many Axes; Susan Rawcliffe; Scott Wilkinson; Brad Dutz music blog Myra Melford Nasheet Waits Natsuki Tamura Nels Cline Nels Cline Singers Nels Cline Singers with Jeff Parker Nestor Torres New Monastery Nick Rosen OC Creative Music Collective Oguri Open Gate Theatre Sunday Concert Series Pannonica Rothschild Peggy Lee Peter Bernstein Phil Ranelin Phillip Greenlief plays monk Rahmlee Michael Davis Rashied Ali ResBox at the Steve Allen Theater RIch Breen Rich Breen RISE with Mark Maxwell Roberto Miguel Miranda Roberto Miranda Rod Poole Ron MIles Ron Saint Germain Royal/T Cafe Ruth Price Sara Parkins Sara Schoenbeck Sarah Thornblade SASSAS Satoko Fujii Scott Amendola Scott Colley Shrimper Records Sky Saxon Tribute Sonship Theus Soul Jazz Records Sparklehorse Spirit Moves Spirits in the Sky Steuart Liebig Steven Isoardi Terry Riley The Gathering The Giant Pin The Jazz Bakery The Jazz Baroness The JazzCat with Leroy Downs The Nels Cline Singers The Nels Cline Trio Thelonious Monk Thomas Stones Tom McNalley Tony Allen Tribe Records Trilogy Van Morrison; Astral Weeks; Scott Foundas; Jan Steward; Music Cirle; SASSAS Vincent Chancey Wayne Horvitz Wayne Peet Wilco Wilco; Nels Cline Wilco; Wilco (The Album); Nels Cline Will Salmon Yankee Hotel Foxtrot