Half Notes: Rova And The Nels Cline Singers – The Celestial Septet (2010)

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Dirty Baby wasn’t Nels Cline’s first 2010 release and Initiate wasn’t even the first Nels Cline Singers 2010 release. That came on March 1, when the Singers got together with the free jazz saxophone quartet Rova to collaborate on an album recorded in 2008, The Celestial Septet. Though both bands are well immersed in whack jazz with an appreciation and understanding of other music forms that often seep into their respective palettes, combining a guitar-led trio with four saxes isn’t a slam dunk; Cline and Co. revel in the freedom that comes with having only having one lead instrument, while Rova typically doesn’t have to negotiate with a rhythm section. But all is good with this collaboration. There’s some compromises involved to come up with a composite sound, but Cline finds a way to blend in with the horns and the horns prove to be agile in riding on top of the the Singers’ unpredictable turns and occasional blasts of skronk. Drummer Scott Amendola contributes the first track “Cesar Chavez,” but the remaining four come from Rova, three from Larry Ochs. That doesn’t make the Rova sound predominate, though, as the end product blends both ensemble’s free jazz approaches roughly equally. I have a minor complaint about the sheer length of “Whose To Know (For Albert Ayler)” at 25 minutes long but even there, you can find some bright moments like Cline’s unhinged solo at around the eight minute mark, and Rova steadily sailing over the rough waters provided by Amendola and bassist Devin Hoff. The Celestial Septet might not have enough ideas to warrant a permanent union, but the one-off collaboration was a fine — sometimes even an inspired — idea.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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