The Nels Cline 4 visited the Paste Studio in New York last week to perform songs from their first official release, Currents, Constellations. The quartet features Cline (one of the great guitarists in rock history, known best as Wilco’s lead man since 2004) and jazz master Julian Lage, a veteran of the Paste Studio with his own trio as well as a duo with Punch Brothers guitarist Chris Eldridge. The two collaborated on the the 2014 release Room, an awe-inspiring collection of dueling guitar pieces. For their debut as The Nels Cline 4, the pair added a versatile rhythm section in the form of bassist Scott Colley and drummer Tom Rainey, offering reverberations of jazz, rock and experimental music with two six-string virtuosos out front, dancing around each other and occasionally colliding beautifully.
“It’s a real different thing actually,” Cline told us about the approach to writing and improvising with the quartet versus the duo. “When Julian and I play our duo, I think sometimes, in spite of the fact that we love compositions and we love organized harmonic and melodic and rhythmic ideas, we don’t really need to play composed music as a duo, because when we improvise, it has its own sort of immediate and satisfying degree of form. I think that when it becomes a quartet, it becomes incumbent upon me to not only figure out dynamically how that type of extemporaneous chemistry can be preserved, but also how to ramp it up in a way that the duo can’t, really. And that kind of happens automatically when we start playing.”
Citing John McLaughlin as a major influence, Cline extends his buzzing, rapid-fire guitar talents to the rest of the group. Lage is equally driven, working with Cline through spine-tingling solos and combined harmonic leads. Rainey’s performance at Paste on a stripped-down kit was stunning, with Colley providing both the group’s rhythmic spine and some breathtaking melodic lead solos of his own.
Currents, Constellations was released April 13 on Blue Note. The Nels Cline 4 is touring across Europe through the rest of April and early May, with American dates coming up in June. Watch The Nels Cline 4 perform their full set at Paste Studio: