Dear everyone - 

Every year or two I wake up from whatever reverie has absorbed/diverted my attention and realize that another year is upon me/us and that I had better tell people what I am up to and offer a few windows into what I am thinking about. So here goes - this time without the usual apologies, since that stuff is tiresome by now, right? I am always sorry yet I still rarely offer up-to-date info/insight. >sigh<

As a time of madness and uncertainty seems to have descended on the world, I am confronted by myriad emotions and a fairly hefty "to do" list of fascinating projects and the emergence of some wildly cool recordings that I participated in. It's a "New Year" - one that started, as usual, with my (and my twin brother's) birthday, and was swiftly followed by marching in Washington, D.C. with my wife Yuka and 500,000 other caring souls. We played some songs later that night with the wonderful band Antibalas at their "Anti-Ball" to benefit Planned Parenthood. This was an inspiring start to my year and a kind of antidote to the anxieties, astonishment, and anger that I and millions of other people have been experiencing. Please let this report just say what is obvious about my point of view and state of mind so that I may successfully resist the temptation to go on an all-out political scree. I grew up in the 60s and I have seen a lot of progress in terms of consciousness, and even though so many of the things that are dogging us now are as old as the hills, things ARE different and we HAVE progressed and I/we will not go backwards into a past that never really existed anyway. We are awake and aware and will resist these heinous forces. 

And what about ART? MUSIC? BEAUTY? CREATIVITY? Well, these elements are what saved me and still save me, so here I go - forward. Playing and writing, but adding other tasks to my year as a concerned citizen. And with that, THE NEWS - for now at least....


There are two recent recordings that I played on that I wish to bring to your attention:

Molecular Affinity (Roaratorio) and Oceans Of Vows (Cryptogramophone)

MOLECULAR AFFINITY is the title given to an improvised music recording assembled by the protean pianist and all-around new music nomad Thollem McDonas with Pauline Oliveros on her "V-accordion" and yours truly on electric guitars/effects and Dobro. That it has become the first posthumous release by the recently-departed genius named Pauline Oliveros is just too bizarre. After a year of what almost felt like a domino effect of musician deaths in 2016, one of the last ones was the legendary composer, accordionist, musical philosopher, and electronic music pioneer Ms Oliveros. But unlike the shockingly "premature" deaths of legends like Prince or Victor Bailey, Pauline was 83 and had just been in The Netherlands performing at the same festival that Wilco played in late November! She died peacefully mere days later at home, in her sleep. Any deities/cosmic forces out there please take note: this is how I would like to go out.

Anyway, I have listened to this record with great satisfaction as it has a certain ascetic restraint and genuine chemistry. And yes, perhaps it is rather unremittingly "avant-garde", if one needs to make such distinctions. But if one thinks of endeavors such as these as exercises in things like trust and openness as well as possessing a kind of real innocence, I think you can feel what music like this is all about when listening to Molecular Affinity. I am grateful indeed to Thollem for bringing us together and to Roaratorio for releasing it.

My twin brother Alex has created an epic work two hours in length called OCEANS OF VOWS that is a kind of song/sonic illumination of a dense, profound, and much-studied Buddhist sutra. The large band that played this multi-movement composition is made up of many of my favorite West Coast comrades, some of whom I have played with on and off for over 30 years and also includes my wife Yuka. Sung by the amazing vocalist Areni Agbabian, the piece is, much like a lot of Alex's music, meditative, wide-ranging stylistically, and possessing a kind of sweeping drama that, if one is patient enough, is electrifying and quite moving. Of course, I am not objective about this since it's my twin brother's work and i have known him my entire life! But really, folks - if you can set aside your phones and nattering random thoughts and distractions, this music may really make you feel great to be alive. Written as a "continuation day" (birthday) gift to Alex's spiritual teacher Thich Nhat Hanh and made possible by The Shifting Foundation and Cryptogramophone, it puts into play some truly timeless themes and healing energies while in no way shying away from intensity or contrast. Recommended!


Sorry, but I have no actual release dates for these yet, but here are two of note:


This was recorded sometime ago but is finally finished and ready to emerge. It's a cooperative quartet consisting of instigator/catalyst Mike Watt on bass & vocals, Nick Reinhart on guitar & vocals, Greg Saunier on drums, and yours truly, and it's really wild. Recorded by Tony Maimone and mixed by Greg, it is a bristling bombshell of concentrated creativity, and it ROCKS. Look for it soon on the Sargent House label.


Another collective, this is a trio with instigator/catalyst Jim Black on drums and electronics, Elias Stemeseder on piano and synthesizers, and me. Most of the music was written by Jim and Elias and arranged/deranged by the three of us. Of course, there is also some improvising involved. And it ROCKS. Not sure how we are going to release this yet.


LOVERS ---- My double "concept" record will actually be performed in concert this year - a special event for sure. What with about 17 musicians involved in performing this music 'live', it's pretty hard to mount these concerts, but it's happening! And so many of my favorite musicians will be playing with me. I am a lucky man...



And watch this site for additional dates to be announced.

WILCO! Yes, we are playing some shows! And it's a Solid Sound year, so get ready!


What can I say? I already have The Singers, my long-standing combo, and we are still going. We will not stop! But as I am someone who collaborates with a lot of people - especially here in New York - other possibilities/opportunities present themselves. And when they are feeling good and sounding good, I want to keep those vibes going! So this year will see performances by The Nels Cline Four, which consists of Julian Lage on guitar (our duo is also ongoing, by the way), Scott Colley on bass, and Tom Rainey on drums. Very exciting!

My wife Yuka and I have renewed our duo music energies but slightly shifted direction musically. Hence, we have formed 'cup', a voyage into the meditative and ethereal. Some of it you might call "ambient", but basically it's a beautiful sound experience. We will be performing this year at both Big Ears in Knoxville and at Justin from Bon Iver's Eaux Claires festival. Thank you! Wilco will be at these events as well...

I also started an ensemble to continue to address my interest and participation in what we loosely call "free jazz" and it's comprised of Taylor Ho Bynum on brass instruments, Michael "TA" Thompson on drums, Chris Lightcap on bass, and Dave Rempis (when possible - he lives in Chicago) on alto saxophone. We will play as part of my week at NYC's The Stone this coming August and make a recording, too.  


I will be doing a weekend workshop in late March for the heroically long-standing Creative Music Studio and its creator/overseer Karl Berger here in New York City at The Greenwich House in the West Village. Specific information on this soon. Come on down!


Scott's Band has been going for a long time and is always inspiring to me and inspired. Jeff Parker, Jenny Scheinman, John Shifflett, and I will be playing this month at SFJAZZ (February 16-19) and in Santa Cruz, CA (February 20), as well as at The Cotton Club in Tokyo in May. If you live in or near these places, please come and listen.


I will play solo March 12th and also during Alternative Guitar Summit's tribute to Pat Metheny in NYC March 11th, as well as doing the Metheny Tribute in Philadelphia on March 9th. I am also writing a piece to be performed by the estimable and intense NY electric guitar quartet Dither as part of Joel Harrison's Summit. See my concerts calendar for details.


See my concerts calendar for the complete listing.


Here's to a future of tolerance, compassion, justice, ecological awareness, a clear-eyed embrace of facts, and deep listening. Thank you Pauline and thank you everyone. Together we can make it.

XO Nels (02/05/17 - Brooklyn, NY)