Remember when Nels Cline Singers shows were a regular happening on the West Coast? I've missed those gigs, even when most of the music went right over my head. Alas, times have changed. The Singers aren't as commonly found out here, and even when they settle in for the now rare Bay Area residency, I hit only one of the shows at Duende, over in Oakland. It was good to have them back.
Nels Cline Singers, Duende, January 24, 2013: I'm not the worst San Francisco snob, but attending a show in the East Bay takes careful consideration (and forget the North or South Bay), helped along by a healthy dose of devotion. The Nels Cline Singers made it easy on me, playing at a venue conveniently close to the 19th Street BART station and teasing the singleminded music nerd factor that seems to be the only way to get me to a show anymore. In the process, they reminded me of how much I enjoy these shows, which I'll have to keep in mind the next time I decide to stay put while a beloved band is in town.
I'll try to keep this short since this is the last report you should ever read about a jazz ensemble. Give me credit for trying?
The lineup carried over from the last Singers gig I saw (minus guest collaborator Yuka Honda) and, as it turned out, so did much of the setlist (see below). The first set felt -- dare I say it? -- upbeat and accessible. As the trio moved through the songs, they went from mellow to funky -- like Detroit house funky -- to good ol' rock. Believe me, the heads were bobbing along to the groove. My completely juvenile and ill-informed hunch says the tunes had a newer sense of sophistication and less of a punk edge, perhaps owing to Trevor Dunn's new place in the band on bass. Or I could be making all this up.
Ben Goldberg, a frequent guest of the Singers, joined in for the second set. Paul deemed it the archetype of West Coast jazz, and I can't argue with him. To these tin ears, it sounded like the very definition of contemporary jazz, and the artists complemented each other beautifully. Nels and Ben, in particular, brought out each other's contributions with their own notes. A lovely bonus in this set: a brand-new song, tentatively titled "(Almost the Blues)." Keep an eye out for it, perhaps on the next Singers record.
Mug Like Mine
Set 2 (w/ Ben Goldberg)
Smarty Pants (Scott's song)
(Almost the Blues)
Lullaby for Ian
Thanks to Paul for filling in the blanks!
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