My reverence for Nels Cline has been growing almost daily. His sound just clicks with me better than any other jazz guitarist. I've known about him since his Guitar Player cover when he joined Wilco 3 years ago, but it's only been a year or so since I've been really into his music.
I remember the moment that sparked my interest. I was on my way home from a late band practice, dead tired, ready for bed, listening to Henry Rollins's radio show on L.A.'s Indie 103.1. He plays whatever the hell he wants on his show, and it's all over the map. On this particular evening, he chose to play "Jupiter" from John Coltrane's Interstellar Space. I had heard plenty of Coltrane, but none of his late-period stuff, and Interstellar Space is about as late-period as it gets. The album is a collection of duets with drummer Rashied Ali, and they go totally fuckin nuts. Not only is the playing technically mind-blowing, but this was the first free jazz that made me feel like there's some underlying structure that's totally beyond my comprehension. Hearing it for the first time was an unreal experience. I was lucky to arrive at home as the song started; I could sit in my parked car with my jaw on the floor instead of crashing on the freeway.
When the song finished, I ran inside to look up more info on this album. I spent an hour reading about it and Coltrane's other later works. Then I found a live recording of Nels Cline and drummer Gregg Bendian performing the album in its entirety. (Listen here. Watch an excerpt here.) I was immediately captivated beyond belief. If the Coltrane track I'd just heard was like seeing daylight after a lifetime underground, then this was like a rocket to the next galaxy. "Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy shit," went my whispered refrain for the duration of the recording.
Since then, I've been slowly looking up everything I can find on Nels Cline. Today I was directed to this 2-hour interview with Nels, in which he speaks in detail about his influences, his approach to the guitar and music, and his recording of Interstellar Space. He brings up the same point I did in my post, Why Don't I Love Jazz Guitar? It seems like he had the same dilemma about the traditional jazz guitar tone when he was searching for his own. He says he prefers music to sound scary, and that's exactly how I feel, although I couldn't identify it until he said it.