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Watch Guitarist and Composer Nels Cline Recording a Track From His New Album

Nathan West
Blue Note Records
The Nels Cline 4, left to right: Tom Rainey, Scott Colley, Julian Lage and Cline

Nels Cline has a new album on the near horizon.

Blue Note Records has just announced the April 13 release of Currents, Constellations, the debut release by the Nels Cline 4 — an energetic unit made up of Cline, his fellow guitarist Julian Lage, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Tom Rainey.

Cline is best known outside jazz circles as the lead guitarist in Wilco. His previous release is the 2016 orchestral pop production Lovers. He told NPR’s Fresh Air that it was an album 25 years in the making, rooted in his deep attraction to melody and his respect for the jazz-guitar touchstone Jim Hall.

The lead single from Currents, Constellations, a spring-loaded Cline original called “Imperfect 10,” is available today for streaming and digital download. Blue Note has also posted this video of the tune, made in the recording studio. It’s worth a look for a handful of reasons, chief among them the deep mind-meld among the four musicians in the room.

Currents, Constellations takes a sparser and more splintery approach, but with no less personal investment from Cline. 


From one angle it suggests the extension of his well-articulated rapport with Lage, which produced a compelling duo album, Room, in 2014.

Cline is a little more than 30 years older than Lage, and they strike an odd couple besides, in tone and temperament. Watch the video closely and their differences are clear: Lage is a sunbeam in human form, his guitar solo seeming almost to spill out of him, while Cline has a more inward-seeking intensity, and a slashing attack. But you also notice the ease and extent of their rapport. (Lage, for starters, is another noted admirer of Hall.)

The Nels Cline 4 will play an album-release show at Le Poisson Rouge in New York on April 16, before embarking on a European tour. Currents, Constellations will release on April 13; preorder here.

A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, Nate Chinen is editorial director at WBGO and a regular contributor to NPR Music.