Guitar Giant Releases Jazz Album But I Call It Rock

Wilco would be a great band on the strength of Jeff Tweedy’s songwriting alone, but what makes them an extraordinary band are the contributions of two of the finest Rock musicians on the planet, drummer Glenn Kotche and lead guitarist Nels Cline. Their stellar musicianship doesn’t always translate adequately on the band’s studio albums, but it always steals the show in concert, which is why you need to see Wilco live to really get them.

Live in concert, Wilco songs take on a vitality and a passion that is sometimes missing in their studio work. Nels Cline’s solos on songs like “Impossible Germany” and “Ashes Of American Flags” transform somewhat dull recordings into towering castles of sound that leave an audience gasping for breath. Cline is an unconventional player who can squeeze a dizzying array of sounds and textures out of his Fender Jazzmaster, from squeaks and squonks and grungy drones to lightning-fast fingerpicking runs and ear-blasting buzzsaw noise. He’s a very physical player who always looks as exhausted as the audience after every show, leaving everything out there every performance.

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Cline has always had a side project or two on the go, and I’m delighted to report he’s launching a new one called the Nels Cline 4. They’ve got their debut album called Currents, Constellations coming out on April 13, and from it they’ve released a feature track called “Imperfect 10”, and it absolutely slapped me upside my head. They call this jazz, but I don’t see it that way. If Frank Zappa was Rock, and Jeff Beck’s explorations were Rock, then this must also be Rock. It’s virtuosic, sure, but it’s got edge and it’s got bite and it’s got attitude, and we shouldn’t let its “jazz” label keep it out of Rock’s big tent. Crank it loud!

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