- Peter Erskine
"an album which manages to subsume an astonishing variety of detail
into an overall sound which remains utterly unique and consistent...an outstandingly
"chamber music which lies somewhere between modern classical and
new jazz, the rigour of composition and the fluency of improvisation, with
added 'ethnic' elements...It's terribly beautiful."
"The latest Alex Cline Ensemble endeavor is the first since 1999's Sparks Fly Upward, and is a poetic masterpiece. Back is the haunted, hunted stoned angel voice of Aina Kemanis, with violins provided by Jeff Gauthier, Michael Elizondo's bass, G.E. Stinson's guitar and Wayne Peet's keyboards to accompany the massive percussion, synthesizer and string skills of Cline (on kantele and autoharp). Also lending a hand are Cline's guitar monster brother, Nels; soprano saxophonist Vinny Golia; a percussion ensemble headed by producer Peter Erskine with Dan Morris Mridingham, Christopher Garcia - Mbwata, and a host of relatives and friends of band members reading six poems by the late Akiko Yosano. The opener"Paramita," is dedicated to the memory of Don Cherry. After a brief poem spoken by Kemanis, the piece opens with a deep, thunderous drumming. Eventually, in her ghostly yet serene voice keyboards, bass and the kantele (a kind of zither) enter the tune and become its body. Kemanis hovers above, ever so slightly, bringing her musicians with her into the heavens, ever so slowly until the entire tune is transformed from a piece of musical poetry into a prayer. On "Evening Bell," dedicated to the late composer Toru Takemitsu, singing bowls usher in bells and scrape yet resonant strings-Gauthier overdubbed-and very eventually, Kemanis' vocal. The work holds together with a spiritual thread, nothing more binds its disparate parts. Improvisation is everywhere, yet reined in with an aesthetic control of space. One of the standout tracks is the title cut, dedicated to the memory of John Carter whom Cline cut his musical teeth with. Not remotely resembling anything Carter would compose, the piece nonetheless employs his compositional methodology and uses space for improvisation in much the same way. While there isn't a weak moment on this outrageously ambitious recording, worthy of an essay instead of a review, there are some moments that need to be mentioned if for no other reason than to point listeners in a general direction.
"Bridge," for (the living) David Sylvian, begins with a gorgeous vocal from Kemanis, singing the simplest of lyrics, accompanied only by a keyboard for half of the piece's 13 minutes. As her vocal opens the musical field, percussion, other keyboards, strings and reeds join together with her shimmering in the dark heat. By disc'send, it's obvious that Cline and his band can accomplish anything they want to, there be no chasm they cannot breach. In the spare, night-drenched sparseness that is "Benediction," (written for and sung by Kemanis) the keyboards and whispering cymbals offer a closing to a set of music that is both sacred and yet entrenched in the ravaged beauty of the earth. Cline's music is boundless and cannot be more or less than any of thesounds that he and his band evoke in their search for musical wholeness. As brave and uncompromising as it is inherently beautiful, this is Cline's finest moment as a leader thus far."
ALL MUSIC GUIDE
"A long-standing fixture on the Los Angeles music scene, Alex Cline has always been more than just a drummer. Playing a drum kit that is augmented by numerous cymbals, bells and gongs, he is an orchestrator of sounds. His latest release, THE CONSTANT FLAME, is the second in a pair of recordings along with 1999's SPARKS FLY UPWARDS. The songs here again are inspired by/dedicated to various people who have inspired Cline over the years. The opening track, "Paramita," is in the memory of trumpeter Don Cherry. Starting off with the sound of bells, Aina Kemanis recites from the "Tibetan Book of the Dead" before Cline starts up a tribal rhythm on his kit with mallets. Kemanis' voice floats above with a wondrous delicacy. For those not familiar with her, she possesses a voice that is both fragile and strong, with a clarity of sound few others can match. She is the perfect compliment for Jeff Gauthier's violin as they weave around each other over the rhythm. "Evening Bell" is more abstract. Gongs, bells, and swelling chords give way to piano. The music moves by slowly, as instruments move in and out.
The excellent recording (once again produced by drummer Peter Erskine) allows for minute details across the sound field. "The Constant Flame," with guest guitarist Nels Cline, builds up into a B3 organ/drums/guitar rave-up that recalls Tony Williams' original "Lifetime" group. Add Vinny Golia's soprano sax and the intensity builds. Alex and bassist Michael Elizondo drive things along, pushing the music forward and challenging the soloists. "Bridge" (for David Sylvian) opens with brooding chords from Wayne Peet and Kemanis' wonderful voice. Elizondo then solos on double bass over the same chords. His sound is full and vibrant. Kemanis returns with the bass weaving around her. Gauthier's lyrical violin enters and then percussion from guests Dan Morris, Christopher Garcia, and producer Erskine. "Summoning Spirits" is a short solo piece where Cline features the varied tonalities of his kit. The closing "Benediction" is a Gaelic prayer dedicated to vocalist Kamanis. The music ebbs and flows like the evening tide. Cline plays cymbals and bells, adding to the mood. Not what you would expect from a drummer's recording, but Cline is so much more. He is a composer and musician at heart who happens to play drums. This is not wallpaper music, but music of immense depth that, like a great film, will reveal more nuances each time it is returned to."
RIGHT OF VIOLET
Alex Cline - Drumset/Percussion
Jeff Gauthier- Electric Violin(s)
G.E. Stinson - Electric guitars, Mbira, dobro, implements
The first cut on this here disc sounds like some of my old ECM albums, particularly those by Eberhard Weber. It's an 18- minute, pleasantly atmospheric tour that seems like six....... And sure enough the press handout informs me that Alex Cline has recorded an album for ECM under his own name. But by no means do all, or even most, of the cuts here sound Eicherish. Cline and company (all from Calif.) come from eclectic backgrounds. Stinson has gospel roots and folk too .........What comes out in the wash is jazz/new music hybrid which is improv-oriented. Gauthier's haunting violin work on "Sophia" recalls Vaughan Williams' "The Lark Ascending" and is a sure success. Discerning improv listeners will want to sample before buying. But there is that first cut.
RIGHT OF VIOLET
Alex Cline - Drumset/Percussion
Jeff Gauthier- Electric Violin(s)
G.E. Stinson - Electric guitars, Mbira, dobro, implements
Here is one of the ultimate American white boy improv records. No academic noodling here, no Euro doublespeak about musical languages and the elasticity of the moment, just out and out tonal and timbral exploration without any goal: "Let's see where we can go." Percussionist Alex Cline has been messing about a lot with the formlessness of tone, and the naturally occurring architecture that timbral experimentation can produce. With violinist Jeff Gauthier and G.E. Stinson's various stringed instruments (like electric guitars tuned all funky, mbiras, and odd sonic elements), one would think listeners had entered the outer sphere of sonic expression. But the music here is quiet and purposeful; it seeks its own level against silence and the other instruments in the fold, not against the music itself. While there are ten tracks listed as dividing moments, none of these could ever be repeated again -- particularly the first half of the 18-minute "An Elegy of Waves," which opens the album. Who could believe that such a subtle, quiet washing of microtones could create such a dense, white-knuckle atmospheric ride? And then there's "Build a Road," which should have been titled "Build a Rocket Ship" for all its striving to do just that. This is stargazing music, not only in its reach, but also as an aesthetic: Where the stars are not attained, they are realized in the internal body of the music created. This is inner-body music, which nourishes the mind as well. This album is made with a collective pure heart, and therefore shines with the quiet power of an ensemble whose members intuitively know themselves and their pursuit only insofar as they are committed to engage it.
All Music Guide
Born January 4, 1956, in Los Angeles, Alex Cline began playing the drums at age eleven, first in rock bands with his twin brother, guitarist Nels Cline, then, as his interests and experience expanded, in numerous musical situations. Alex's interest in a larger sonic vocabulary caused him to gather a large family of percussion instruments which he has been heard playing mainly in the "jazz" and "new Music"genres. After beginning a musical association with woodwind artist Jamil Shabaka in 1976 as Duo Infinity, Alex's musical activities began to flourish. In 1977 Alex became a member of Vinny Golia's group as well as the Julius Hemphill Trio (which toured Europe and recorded that year), he formed the electric improvisational trio Spiral, and began performnig solo percussion concerts.
Since that time Alex Cline has performed and/or recorded with numerous musical artists. See Performance Credits and Selected Discography. His musical pursuits have taken him all over the United States, Europe, and Canada, including appearances at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Hague, the Netherlands' the Du Maurier International Jazz Festival in Vancouver, B.C., Canada (twice); the Lucerne Festival, Lucerne, Switzerland, and jazz festivals of Willisau, Switzerland; Saalfelden, Austria; Nickelsdorff, Austria; Hofheim, Germany (twice); ris-oragges, France; Milan, Italy (twice) and Ljubljana, Yugoslavia.
In 1979, Alex, Nels Cline, Eric Von Essen and Jeff Gauthier formed Quartet Music, a group that enjoyed continued success in its performances and four recordings over an eleven-year period and was awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council. Several of Alex's compositions were performed and recorded by this ensemble. In summer 1989 Quartet Music performed its music for two consecutive evenings together with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Alex has served as composer and/or performed for numerous modern dancers and dance companies in Los Angeles, including Margaret Schuette, Linda Fowler, the Momenty Company (for whom he served as music director for their "SoundSpace concerts), Dance/LA, the UCLA Dance Com pany, and currently, Open Gate Theatre (a dance-music-theater ensemboe led by dancer/musician Will Salmon). He has worked on film soundtracks (featured prominently in such films as Umbrella, the Being, Blood and Contrete:A Love Story, Trouble Bound, The Serpent's Lair, and Small Time), been heard in televison soundtracks, done numerous sound workshops and percussion clinics plus lecture/demonstrations on one of Alex's primary areas of interest and study, Asian metal percussion instruments, particularly the singing bowls of Tibet.
In 1987, Alex recorded his first album as a bandleader-composer entitled The Lamp and The Star. He is now concertizing with his own ensemble, the core of which can be heard on the album (ECM1372). In 1992, this ensemble recorded their second album, Montsalvat, released in January 1996 on the 9Winds label. The latest release by the Alex Cline Ensemble is Sparks Fly Upward, released 1999, produced by Peter Erskine.
His compositions have also been heard on recordings or in performances by Dennis Gonzales, Bobby Bradrord's Mo'tet, a duo with Peter Erskine, a duo with Ron George, a duo recording with drummer/percussionist Gregg Bendian, solo work, and various freelance capacities. Having recorded on over fifty albums and performed on numerous concert tours both domestically and abroad, Alex Cline contrinus to bring his percussive artistry to a wider and increasingly global public. His current work as a composer and bandleader serves to expand and enhance his reputation. Alex Cline has converted his years as a presence in the jazz and new music scenes of Los Angeles into a musical career international in scope. A veteran of numerous domestic and European tours as well as over fifty recordings, Alex has sonically contributed to the music of such artists as Vinny Golia, Julius Hemphill, Tim Berne, Quartet Music, John Carter, Bobby Bradford, Richard Grossman, and Charlie Haden, as well as numerous dancers and dance companies.
Aside from his continued presence in Mr. Golia's ensembles, some of the settings in which he can currently be heard are the G.E. Stinson Group, the Jeff Gauthier Quartet, the Bobby Bradford Mo'tet, Gregg Bendian's Interzone, Open Gate Theatre, and the European group Shooting Stars and Traffic Lights. As the leader of his own group, the Alex Cline Ensemble he can be heard on the ECM album The Lamp and the Star and the 9 Winds CD Montsalvat. Alex Cline endorses PAISTE cymbals and gongs, ATTACK drumheads, and VIC FIRTH drumsticks. He continues to play on early-1970s vintage Camco drums, as he has for the last twenty-six years, and uses MONTINERI custom snare drums.
EXCERPTS from the CRYPTOGRAMOPHONE WEBSITE
P. O. BOX 251
Culver City, CA
|ALEX CLINE ENSEMBLE||THE CONSTANT FLAME||+CRYPTOGRAMOPHONE|
|ALEX CLINE ENSEMBLE||SPARKS FLY UPWARD||+CRYPTOGRAMOPHONE|
|ALEX CLINE ENSEMBLE||MONTSALVAT||*9WINDS 0197|
|ALEX CLINE ENSEMBLE||THE LAMP AND THE STAR||ECM1372|
+ Available for purchase ONLINE at the Lira Productions website, http://www.liraproductions.com
|JEFF GAUTHIER GOATETTE||MASK||+CRYPTOGRAMOPHONE|
|JEFF GAUTHIER QUARTET||THE PRESENT||9WINDS 0189|
|JEFF GAUTHIER QUARTET||INTERNAL MEMO||9WINDS0164|
|ALEX CLINE/GREGG BENDIAN DUO||ESPIRITU|
|RICHARD GROSSMAN||RICHARD GROSSMAN TRIO||HAT ART|
|VINNY GOLIA QUINTET||OUT FOR BLOOD||9WINDS0127|
|VINNY GOLIA LARGE ENSEMBLE||TUTTO CONTARE||9WINDS0170|
|JOHN RAPSON WITH ANTHONY BRAXTON||DANCES AND ORATIONS||MUSIC & ARTS 923|
|CLINE, GAUTHIER, STINSON||RIGHT OF VIOLET||*9WINDS0184|
|CLINE, GAUTHIER, STINSON||THE OTHER SHORE||+ CRYPTOGRAMOPHONE106|
|QUARTET MUSIC||SUMMER NIGHT||DELOS4010|
+ Available for purchase ONLINE at the Cryptogramophone website, http://www.cryptogramophone.com
* Available for purchase ONLINE at the Lira Productions website, http://www.liraproductions.com
Gregg Bendian's Interzone, Karl Berger, Tim Berne, Rob Blakeslee, BLOC, Bobby Bradford, John Wolf Brennan, James Carney, Lenny Carlson, Baikida Carroll, Buddy Collette, John Carter, Andrea Centazzo, Jay Clark, Cline/Gauthier/Stinson Trio, Christopher Garcia, Destroy All Nels Cline,Mark Dresser, Marty Ehrlich, Peter Erskine, John Fumo, the Jeff Gauthier Quartet, Ron George, Vinny Golia Trio, Quartet, Quintet and Large Ensemble, Dennis Gonzalez, Burton Green, Richard Grossman, Julius Hemphills JAH Band, Charlie Haden, Steve Lockwood, Charles Lloyd, Jim McAuley, Kate McGarry, Roberto Miguel Miranda, Frank Morgan, Wayne Peet, Barre Philips, Sam Phipps, John Rapson, Susan Rawcliffe, Kim Richmond, Wadada Leo Smith, Horace Tapscott, Thirteen Frightened Girls, Walter Thompson, Michael Pierre Vlatkovich, John Wood.
Take me back to the Opening Screen