Then again, you could just as easily say that Wilco plays with Nels Cline, because Cline’s jazz-influenced, improvisational style is sort of a unique thing – both with the hit band and in a number of solo and side projects he’s delved into over the years.
It’s a wonder that he’s not on more playlists. He should be.
Born in L.A., Cline taught himself how to play guitar at age 12, teaming up with this drumming brother, Alex, to form the first of a series of local bands.
Like most kids with a six-string, Cline picked up on the rock music of the era and was inspired by the guitar heroes of the time.
In an interview last summer, Premium Guitar asked Cline about Jimi Hendrix’ influence on the young guitarist.
“Yeah—I was already thinking about it, though, because I was into The Byrds, and my twin brother, Alex, was listening to the Rolling Stones all the time,” Cline said.
“We were becoming rock ’n’ roll obsessed, and we were buying records with our allowance every two weeks,” he said. “When Are You Experienced came out, it looked incredibly cool, but we had bought records based on how cool they looked before and they weren’t always great. But then I heard ‘Manic Depression’ on AM radio — which was really amazing considering ‘Purple Haze’ was supposed to be the single at that time—and that was the moment I decided it was going to be guitar forever. It was just the most magical moment.”
Cline proved a natural guitarist, and formed his first significant band, BLOC, in the early 1980s. The band caught on in the L.A. club scene, and got Cline and his bandmates more and more attention from both fans and critics.
The band was ultimately signed to a record deal, and did release several titles. But the records never took off, and the group disbanded after less than a decade.
But Cline has gone on to play with a host of noted musicians, appearing on more than 150 recordings, including with the Geraldine Fibbers and Scarnella. In 2004, he joined Wilco, changing the band’s dynamic and appearing on two of the Grammy-winning band’s most critically acclaimed albums, Sky Blue Sky and Wilco (The Album).
However, he hasn’t slowed down, and continues to perform both as a solo artist and with other musicians in the jazz, contemporary and rock genres. Not likely to go unnoticed with that kind of resume, Cline was picked in 2007 as one of Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 20 New Guitar Gods.
You have to wonder about the “new” part of that honor. But rest assured Nels Cline won’t be going away anytime soon.
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