The denouement of a whirlwind weekend! Thanks to my friends for coming along for the ride (and the urban hike).
Nels Cline Group, Herbst Theatre, October 29, 2006: Back in April, Nels told us about his busy schedule, including a potentially action-packed Halloween weekend that would've comprised a Wilco show in Las Vegas and his own show as part of the San Francisco Jazz Fest. Of course, this rock tourist immediately started plotting a jetset adventure that would cover Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and San Francisco, and amazingly, a few friends jumped on the bandwagon immediately. In the end, we did only two of the aforementioned cities, but that was plenty.
So we went to see our third Nels Cline project in a little more than a week, and once again, the man surprised and amazed. Wilco is sort of the odd man out in this grouping, but this show was different from the LACMA show only a couple of days before. For one thing, Nels was the clear leader tonight, though that's not to say he's an attention hog of any sort. Rather, his most visible contributions, aside from his guitarwork, were calling a few musical cues, such as bringing the band back from an improvisational bender on "Not Sa No Sa."
Nels is a consummate team player, and every player got their solo opportunities. I especially enjoyed the horns, but the electric accordion added an unexpected touch. Of course, the sextet was anchored by Scott Amendola, Devin Hoff, and Nels himself--a.k.a. the Nels Cline Singers. Their extensive experience playing together and listening to each other came through emphatically on the suite "No Doubt / 11/8 / Dance with Death." The group ended with "Pumpkin," a short piece that sounded almost rock 'n' roll in performance that night.
We stuck around for the headliner, and boy, am I glad we did, if only so that I could discover how radical a spin Nels had put on the original compositions. Andrew Hill himself looked very frail, and his voice could barely be heard, even without the applause. Perhaps as a trade-off, he put a lot of faith in his group members, especially Charles Tolliver on trumpet, but he also called a few shots. For example, he urged the horn players to return for one song and guided the bass player through another selection. I don't know enough about jazz to explain what I heard, except to say that it was not the easy listening variety commonly heard in storefronts or even the brand of fusion practiced by Nels.
I'd like to thank Heidi and Paul for not flinching at the idea of spending less than 24 hours in San Francisco for a jazz show. I hope it was worth it!
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