Nels Cline SingersShare The WealthBlue Note Records

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On November 13, Nels Cline will release his 3rd Blue Note album Share The Wealth, a dynamic double album featuring 10 swirling, evocative soundscapes including the epic first single “Beam/Spiral,” which is out today. On Share The Wealth, the sonic explorer and guitar renegade delivers a potent and provocative program of spontaneous, uncompromising music with an expanded edition of his long-running project The Nels Cline Singers featuring saxophonist and punk-jazz iconoclast Skerik, keyboard marvel Brian Marsella, bass powerhouse Trevor Dunn, longtime collaborator and drummer Scott Amendola, and Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista. The album can be pre-ordered now on vinyl, CD, or download.

“This band has never even played a live gig together,” explains the intrepid improviser and Wilco band member. “So basically, the whole thing was an experiment. We recorded all these jams with the idea that I was going to take tiny fragments of them and create this kind of cut-and-paste, collaged, psychedelic record like an Os Mutantes record or something crazy like that. But when I listened back to these jams, I liked them so much that I wanted to keep them intact. And some of the most startling transitions, they’re not edits. They just happened in the course of these long improvisations in the studio, almost like magic.”

Recorded in just two days at The Bunker in Brooklyn with Cline and Eli Crews co-producing, Share The Wealth is by far Cline’s most fiercely experimental, cutting-edge Blue Note outing to date. “What little material I brought into the session we just learned and recorded it on the spot,” he explained. Of “Beam/Spiral,” Cline says “It’s got a little indie rock flavor in there, particularly in the second section. That’s just a classic Singers thing—some pounding eighth notes and big chords. But the more opened-ended first section really reminds me of early Weather Report or maybe Wayne Shorter’s Odyssey of Iska—things that I wasn’t intending but just came out.”

For his ambitious 2016 Blue Note debut, Lovers, Cline defied all expectations by delivering a sumptuous chamber-orchestra feast of mood music conducted and arranged by Michael Leonhart, and inspired by his muses Bill Evans, Jim Hall, Gil Evans, Jimmy Giuffre, Sonic Youth and Henry Mancini. For his 2018 follow-up, Currents, Constellations, he pared it down to a quartet, dubbed The Nels Cline 4, and showcased a tight two-guitar interplay with his six-string partner Julian Lage, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Tom Rainey on some heated collective improvisations across a wide range of moods.

artist bio

THE NELS CLINE SINGERS

For his third Blue Note release, Share The Wealth, sonic explorer and guitar renegade Nels Cline delivers a potent and provocative program of spontaneous, uncompromising, and ultimately compelling music with an expanded edition of his long-running project The Nels Cline Singers. The man whom DownBeat called “an epoch-defining performer and composer” is joined by saxophonist and punk-jazz iconoclast Skerik (Critters Buggin, Garage a Trois, Bobby Previte), keyboard marvel Brian Marsella (John Zorn, Cyro Baptista’s Beat the Donkey, Jon Madof’s Zion80), bass powerhouse Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle, John Zorn), longtime collaborator and drummer Scott Amendola (Bill Frisell, Charlie Hunter, Ben Goldberg) and Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista (John Zorn’s The Dreamers, Caetano Veloso, Paul Simon). Together they revel in swirling, evocative soundscapes brimming with ferocious skronking and uninhibited stretching on this dynamic double album.

“This band has never even played a live gig together,” explains the intrepid improviser and secret weapon of the rock band Wilco. “So basically, the whole thing was an experiment. We recorded all these jams with the idea that I was going to take tiny fragments of them and create this kind of cut-and-paste, collaged, psychedelic record like an Os Mutantes record or something crazy like that. But when I listened back to these jams, I liked them so much that I wanted to keep them intact. And some of the most startling transitions, they’re not edits. They just happened in the course of these long improvisations in the studio, almost like magic.”

The overall tone of Share The Wealth is quickly established with the startling opener, an explosive take on Caetano Veloso’s “Segunda.” A drone-oriented piece, it gradually builds to an ecstatic peak with Cline’s distortion-laced guitar exchanging frenetic phrases with Skerik’s screeching tenor saxophone and Marsella on Fender Rhodes. The dynamic “Beam/Spiral” travels from the atmospheric opening to pummeling rock, powered by Cline’s aggressive strumming and Amendola’s driving backbeat, with Skerik unleashing over the top with some ferocious tenor in the final minute of the piece.

The epic 17-minute studio improv, “Stump the Panel,” is unapologetically avant-garde, containing some riveting moments of Cline and Skerik going toe-to-toe, while more atmospheric pieces like the spacious and mournful ballad “Nightstand” and the noirish “Headdress” reveal the flexible band’s cooler, jazzier side. The raging wah-wah-laden punk-funk of “Princess Phone” recalls the edgy electronic experiments of Miles Davis’ On the Corner with incendiary Rhodes rampaging by Marsella, while the edgy throw down “The Pleather Patrol,” fueled by Dunn’s bubbling fuzz baselines and Amendola’s slamming backbeat, is straight out of P-Funk. The 16-minute studio jam, “A Place on the Moon,” travels from peaceful Brian Eno-influence ambient soundscape to swirling cacophony and back. Cline’s most intimate moments on Share The Wealth come on his sparse dobro feature “Ashcan Treasure,” in which he is accompanied only by Marsella’s toy piano, and on the solemn requiem “Passed Down,” his personal response to a friend’s suicide.

Recorded in just two days at The Bunker in Brooklyn with Cline and Eli Crews co-producing, Share The Wealth is by far Cline’s most fiercely experimental, cutting-edge Blue Note outing to date. “What little material I brought into the session we just learned and recorded it on the spot,” he explained. “There was no ramp up to this session for anyone to become familiar with the material. I didn’t even send music out ahead of time. We just played it down in the studio.”

Share The Wealth also marks the first time that Los Angeles native Cline and Seattle native Skerik have ever recorded together. “We’ve known each other for almost 20 years but we had never played together until last year,” said Cline. “I was aware of these kind of wacky projects he had like his trio Crack Sabbath that played all Black Sabbath or Syncopated Taint Septet, which was a killer band with a lot of Afrobeat influence, or The Dead Kenny G’s with drummer Mike Dillon. So I’d hear him in all these different bands and you could hear a lot of R&B and lot of Mingus influences in his music. But when I improvised with him at a gig last year in New York City, I heard this other side of him that I hadn’t really paid attention to, which is this kind of Gato Barbieri-Pharoah Sanders thing that he can do. When he hits that stuff, it works my nerves in the best possible way. Just being able to hit that really direct, really strong melodic thing is very rewarding for my ears.”

Regarding the album title, Share The Wealth, Cline said, “I’m no politician but I am very concerned about the concentration of more and more wealth among fewer and fewer people. The percentage gets smaller and smaller and this is bad for society. And I also think that everybody, unless they’re sort of subhuman, wants a fair shake for everybody. I think everybody wants to have security for themselves and their families. And I think that a real society should provide that. What can I say? I guess I’m a socialist.”

track-by-track

THE NELS CLINE SINGERS

Nels Cline breaks down the tracks on Share The Wealth by The Nels Cline Singers:

Segunda — “The inspiration was from hearing the Gal Costa studio version (from the 2011 album, Recanto). Yuka and I just love that album, which Caetano Veloso produced. And I didn’t know anything about the lyrics so I asked Cyro’s wife, Eleonora Alberto, who offered to translate it. It turns out the lyrics are extremely poetic and timely. The song is essentially like a Black Lives Matter anthem. It’s about a black Brazilian ruminating on how people think that blacks are lazy and that the light-skinned people are the industrious people. And it incorporates the idea of White Monday, which is a Catholic holiday in Brazil. So Caetano uses this idea of the working man and the holiday and the legacy of black slavery in Brazil as this kind of potent, poetic statement. And Skerik just launches on this one.”

Beam/Spiral — “It’s got a little indie rock flavor in there, particularly in the second section. That’s just a classic Singers thing — some pounding eighth notes and big chords. But the more opened-ended first section really reminds me of early Weather Report or maybe Wayne Shorter’s Odyssey of Iska — things that I wasn’t intending but just came out. And these guys know how to respond to that stuff.”

Nightstand — “I brought in this ballad as a sketch and asked Skerik and Brian to just play it down, with the idea that I was going to later put an ambient section in the middle. That was actually another weird, kind of magical event because I had said to Eli, ‘I know there’s this area where Cyro was doing an overdub that we didn’t use, and I have a feeling it’s a good length to put over this little guitar part. So let’s just fly that Cyro thing in and see what it sounds like.’ And not only was it exactly the same length, but at one point I hit this chord and he hits this bell and it’s the same note! And it’s completely accidental, because he wasn’t really playing with me. But it sounds like we improvised a duet in the middle of this ballad.”

Stump the Panel — “If anyone has any kind of sense of my personal history, they know that the eyes and ears of so-called electric Miles and early Weather Report and Herbie Hancock and all that ‘70s stuff loom over this material. And in that way, it’s kind of like a record that if I was in high school and I heard this record, it would have been one of my favorite records. Because the esthetics of a lot of what I’ve done all these years aren’t that different from what I was into in high school. Alex and I were listening to Live/Evil and Emergency! and I Sing the Body Electric and Crossings in high school. And that’s reflected throughout this recording.”

Headdress — “That song was inspired directly from two sources, an Esperanza Spalding song from 12 Little Spells (“Touch in Mine”) and also from the amount of time that Yuka and I have sat around listening with incredible pleasure to the Jeff Parker record, New Breed. I wanted to do something really just slow and washy, like ‘drifting through a sea of amber.’ I had Scott and Trevor play this very specific thing on this tune and all that distortion is coming off Scott’s pedalboard. We were able to use it really effectively on this piece to try and create this lo-fi kind of vibe where it’s massive and spacious at the same time.”

Princess Phone — “This has some aspects of Miles’ On the Corner but also even later stuff like that track ‘Come Get It’ on Star People. And I was going for that for sure, just for fun. And it wasn’t even designed to have an electric piano solo but at one point when we started ramping up to play the head, Brian just took off and it was just phenomenal piano playing. So it became this electric piano feature, in a way, which was a complete accident.”

The Pleather Patrol — “It’s a chunk of a slightly longer improv. I just thought the groove was really badass. Scott comes in with this super simple beat that’s so in-the-pocket and then Trevor comes in with this cool fuzz bass thing that’s almost P-Funk-inspired. I love that stuff. In the ‘80s, I was in this rock band that had serious funk leanings, and I just wanted to play rhythm guitar in that band. I don’t get to do that much anymore but it’s still one of my greatest pleasures, just laying down some nice funk rhythm guitar, some chicken picking and some nice, tight figures against a cool groove. Completely satisfying. And I just thought ‘The Pleather Patrol’ was an amusing title for a super sort of slamming 4/4 groove. It’s something that I can fantasize about some DJ getting into using some day.”

Ashcan Treasure — “I’m playing my old National Dobro from the 1920s on this tune. This guitar is extremely special. It’s a resonator guitar that Tom Crandall lovingly restored. The piece starts off as a very spacious duet with me playing Dobro and Brian playing toy piano. And then we bring in all kinds of electronics and loops and things, including Scott’s electronic enhancements from a pedalboard he has on his drums, before we return to the Dobro-toy piano duet. It’s kind of a brief interlude.”

A Place on the Moon — “This is one of two epic, sprawling jams on the album. My directive for this was, ‘OK, everybody…space!’ That was it. And that’s what we got. There’s certain aspects of this piece that remind me of listening to early Weather Report, especially those areas before they go into a song, where there’s all that space and exploration. That first, self-titled Weather Report record is still a seminal listening experience for me, as is the first Joe Zawinul record, entitled Zawinul, and Herbie Hancock’s Crossings. These records still fascinate. I’m not trying to imitate them, it just comes out after all these years. In the studio I’m just reacting to something someone else is playing or what I’m hearing in my head, and the next thing you know, I’m reminded of all the stuff I’ve been listening to forever.”

Passed Down — “This piece and ‘Nightstand’ were really written as a personal response to a friend’s suicide. It’s just one of those haunting, disturbing things that your whole life after…you’re just different. This is a man who I went to school with and then worked in a record store with. He wasn’t a jazz person but he was a music person, a pop expert and a significant figure where I grew up. He was beloved in Los Angeles. A thousand people came to his memorial. So part of me trying to process his passing was the composing of those two kind of introspective pieces. And I was pleased with the way they sort of balance out some of the psychosis on the record. I wanted this particular piece to sonically and musically reflect my love of (Chilean artist) Victor Jara’s records in the ‘70s and also other groups of the Nuevo Canción movement like Quilapayún and Inti-Illimani.”

Credits

The Nels Cline Singers

Share The Wealth

  1. Segunda [6:39]
  2. Beam/Spiral [8:48]
  3. Nightstand [4:24]
  4. Stump The Panel [17:18]
  5. Headdress [5:23]
  6. Princess Phone [5:50]
  7. The Pleather Patrol [8:13]
  8. Ashcan Treasure [2:33]
  9. A Place On The Moon [15:59]
  10. Passed Down [4:03]

NELS CLINE: guitars, electronic enhancements

SCOTT AMENDOLA: drums, percussion, electronic enhancements

SKERIK: tenor saxophone, electronic enhancements

TREVOR DUNN: bass, electronic enhancements

BRIAN MARSELLA: Fender Rhodes, acoustic piano, Hammond C3, Farfisa, melodica, analog synths, toy piano, electronic enhancements

CYRO BAPTISTA: percussion universe, voice

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