Alex and Nels are profiled in the June 2009 issue of Downbeat magazine. Perosnally, we thought they would've made a great COVER story, but oh well...
At any rate, here's an excerpt from the mag, available on newsstands now!
Sushi Performance Gallery, San Diego (1/13/09)
ALEX AND NELS CLINE: CONFLUENCE OF DIVERGENCE
by Josef Woodard
Musical brothers have long figured into the lineage of jazz, including the famous Jones brothers out of Detroit (Thad, Elvin and Hank), the Heaths out of Philadelphia (Jimmy, Albert and Percy) and the Marsalis clan from New Orleans (Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo and Jason).
Meanwhile, out West and lesser-known in the fraternity of musical brothers work the Clines, guitarist Nels and drummer Alex. Whereas brothers from other settings have heeded the theory of a musical household and the passing-down of wisdom from an older to younger siblings, the Los Angeles-born and based Clines are in synch as twins.
“You have solidarity, a best friend who’s obsessed with all the same stuff as you,” said Nels about the relationship he has with his twin. “We probably have some psychic connection.”
Starting in the ’80s, the Clines (born on Jan. 4, 1956) have figured strongly in the jazz and adventurous music scenes in L.A. and beyond. Both have played with Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake and Charlie Haden, as well as numerous West Coast players to the left of straightahead. Their influential Oregon-like acoustic group Quartet Music lasted for much of the ’80s.
In recent years, the Cline name has bumped up in recognition after Nels joined the rock group Wilco. But his newfound fans have a lot to learn about Nels’ twisty musical story, involving work with his trio, the Nels Cline Singers, and other liaisons in jazz, rock and experimental circles.
This year, the brothers simultaneously released solo projects on Cryptogramophone, the 10-year-old L.A.-based indie label run by violinist Jeff Gauthier. Similarities and differences mark Alex’ Continuation and Nels’ Coward. The former is an expansive chamber jazz project, featuring pianist Myra Melford, cellist Peggy Lee, Gauthier, bassist Scott Walton and Alex on his large and texturally varied drum and percussion set-up. Coward, conversely, is Nels’ first all-solo project, although it features a layered collection of acoustic and electric, abstract and lyrical sounds. It includes such seemingly incongruous—but to Cline, logically linked—references as Ralph Towner, Derek Bailey and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth.
On a mid-January afternoon, the Clines convened in the Culver City home where Alex lives with his wife and young daughter. The interview took place a few hours after Barack Obama’s inauguration, which partly explained the excitable atmosphere, not to mention having their albums timed for a joint release.
While the brothers grew up together musically, they have cleaved personal directions and lifestyles. For instance, at the interview both Clines wore black T-shirts, with telling distinctions. Nels’ sported a facsimile of the album cover of the first release by the Bad Brains, the Washington, D.C., punk band, but retooled with the words “Barack Obama.” Alex, the more poised and introspective of the twins, wore a shirt with the Zen-like inscription “this is it.”
A week earlier, the brothers played a rare duo gig in San Diego [see above clip]. On the set list were Keith Jarrett’s “Angles Without Edges,” a snippet of Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive,” the Jimi Hendrix instrumental “Beginnings,” Ornette Coleman’s “Law Years” and John Coltrane’s “India.” The set list speaks volumes about the eclecticism embedded in the Cline family crest, and manifested in their ongoing musical output.