Nels Cline’s latest musical endeavor is the Nels Cline 4, an experimental jazz ensemble that grew out of his collaboration with fellow guitar hero Julian Lage. We heard “Imperfect 10” upon the announcement of their album Currents, Constellations, and today they’re back with a second numerically inclined single.
Today’s release “Swing Ghost ’59” — which Cline describes as “a musical conflict between swung and even eighth notes” — once again arrives with live in-studio performance footage by director Jim Turner. If the vibrant, adventurous quality of the music itself didn’t already make you feel like you were right there in the room with these guys, the video certainly will.
Here’s Cline with some background:
“Swing Ghost ’59” is a rare example of “title before composition” for me. In other words, I came up with the title and general concept before I wrote the actual music, in the same manner as a now-ancient song of mine called “Beer Bottle Collection.”
Its whimsical premise is the eventual demise of “swing” time in popular music as “straight” time became the order of the day. Each time swing is assayed in the piece it is overtaken — if not out-and-out demolished — by straight time.
After the initial swing line and its first demise, after the fleet unison and hocketed guitar parts, bassist Scott Colley is featured, ushering in an open and collective improvisation that gives way to an improvised duet between Julian and me. The re-emergence of swing (in an intentionally cliché manner) only leads to another defeat as a the power riff of “straight” time bludgeons swing before fading into the musical sunset…
As someone fairly ignorant of jazz, who knows Cline almost exclusively from his work with Wilco, I can attest that this stuff could easily serve as a gateway into further exploration of the genre. “Swing Ghost ’59” is a skronking, shredding, shapeshifting good time that you can have right here, right now, so do it.
Currents, Constellations is out 4/13 on Blue Note. Pre-order it here.