Drizzly skies and Monday doldrums almost kept me at home, but I had to make up for the bout of early-onset senility that caused me to totally blank out on a gig last week. Also, it's always a pleasure to catch Nels Cline in yet another musical lineup--this time, the jazz ensemble known as The Good Life.
The Good Life Featuring Trevor Dunn, Ben Goldberg, Nels Cline, John Dietrich, and Scott Amendola (playing the music of Ornette Coleman, Jimmy Giuffre, and more), Cafe du Nord, March 16, 2009: Deep breath--that's a mouthful. It was also a mindful, at least for this pop-raised girl.
Even if I knew anything about Ornette Coleman, whose compositions the players returned to several times, I'm not sure how much of his work I'd recognize in the band's versions. Maybe some of his numbers are meant to build to a crescendo that called to mind Sonic Youth, then eventually trail off in a stop-start amalgam. In that case, the artists were a lot more faithful to the originals than I expected. Mixing it up, they also performed Nels's own "Spider Wisdom," cacophonous and sprawling.
One of the reasons I see Nels in all these formations is because there's something new to take in every time--and I'm not talking about guitarist John Dietrich's resemblance to actor Topher Grace. The last two appearances I've seen were with the Nels Cline Singers, both at Cafe du Nord and Largo, but this was something else altogether.
With the exception of Scott Amendola, I don't think I've seen him play with any of the other people onstage, nor was there a clear director. Ben Goldberg, on clarinet, provided the titles and the introductions between songs, and you could argue that he and Nels traded leadership duties. At the same time, Scott proved the anchor, sitting center stage, providing hints and ideas, and urging his bandmates to play shorter and longer accents as befit the song.
Add it all up, and you get The Good Life.
» still carries a torch
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