Music Review: 'Lovers,' Nels Cline

Aug 11, 2016
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Nels Cline from Wilco plays epic guitar solos.

(SOUNDBITE OF WILCO SONG, "IMPOSSIBLE GERMANY")

CORNISH: Away from Wilco, Nels Cline tends to avoid the spotlight. He makes arty records with a free jazz sensibility - until now. His latest release is an exploration of romance. It's called "Lovers," and Tom Moon has our review.

(SOUNDBITE OF NELS CLINE SONG, "GLAD TO BE UNHAPPY")

TOM MOON, BYLINE: Nels Cline says he's been working out the details of this record for 25 years. It's a set of love songs dating from Tin Pan Alley days to the present, featuring his guitar surrounded by a sultry studio orchestra.

(SOUNDBITE OF NELS CLINE SONG, "GLAD TO BE UNHAPPY")

MOON: Cline was inspired to learn guitar as a kid growing up in Los Angeles when he heard Jimi Hendrix play "Manic Depression." But he regards the late jazz legend Jim Hall as a towering influence. Throughout this record, he emulates Hall's distinctive liquid tone and graceful way with the melody.

(SOUNDBITE OF NELS CLINE SONG, "SECRET LOVE")

MOON: Cline treats these melodies with great reverence. He plays them straight, resisting jazz abstraction or rock star showmanship. This sense of message discipline gives his original tunes a classic sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF NELS CLINE SONG, "HAIRPIN AND HATBOX")

MOON: On this one, called "Hairpin And Hatbox," he updates chord progressions used by Irving Berlin.

(SOUNDBITE OF NELS CLINE SONG, "HAIRPIN AND HATBOX")

MOON: Nels Cline describes himself as a, quote, "fake jazz guy" and "not-all-the-way-rock guy." From this in-between state, he's crafted moody, understated, texture-rich music. It's as though the years spent refining the idea led Nels Cline to a simple conclusion. The best way to play music for lovers is to sound like one.

(SOUNDBITE OF NELS CLINE SONG, "LADY GABOR")

CORNISH: The latest from Nels Cline is called "Lovers." Our reviewer is Tom Moon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.