NELS CLINE & JULIAN LAGE Room (Mack Avenue)
On this fine duo recording, Cline and Lage keep their sound clean and predictable: no noisy electronic effects, no terribly dissonant chords or clashing acoustics .
Guitarists Nels Cline and Julian Lage aren’t an unlikely pair. The twenty-seven-year-old Lage is best known for his work with vibraphonist Gary Burton. Cline, a generation older and an established ensemble leader, has a talent for collaborations, having recorded with jazz saxophonists Tim Berne and Julius Hemphill, rock band Wilco, and post-punker Lydia Lunch, among others. On this fine duo recording, the guitarists keep their sound clean and predictable: no noisy electronic effects, no terribly dissonant chords or clashing acoustics. The two reflect each other perfectly, casting mirror images in tone and feel. The tunes are considered and lyrical with chordal complements that have the tang of sweet-and-sour sauce. They’re anything but frantic, with the exception of “Racy,” a track whose title says it all. And when Cline and Lage play free and out, they’re like Hansel and Gretel, wandering off together. The technical mastery, as in the seamless shower of blended notes at the close of “Racy,” seldom overshadows the musical appeal. “The Scent of Light” starts out as introspective art music before swinging into a tight progression of unison chords that ends with a speedy jaunt up the scale. “Whispers From Eve” is a sensitive exchange, as is the melancholy “Freesia/The Bond.” As it should, “Calder” floats like the arms of a mobile. Fans of the Nels Cline Singers and other Cline projects should find this recording a pleasant, harmonic surprise.