Published Aug 03, 2016Journeyman virtuoso and Wilco guitarist Nels Cline shines on Lovers, a carefully orchestrated jazz opus 25 years in the making. Cline's new record spans 18 instrumental tracks that evoke vivid feelings of wistful romanticism and passion, and his guitar work is beautifully expressive throughout.
The expansive double album features an ensemble of 23 musicians conducted by Michael Leonhart. The production is superb, allowing each instrument to be heard distinctly without becoming overbearing. There's a wonderful air of intimacy throughout Lovers, which is an impressive achievement for such a vast array of instruments.
The record opens with melancholic swells on "Introduction / Diaphanous" before jumping into the melodic "Glad To Be Unhappy," which features some whimsical guitar playing from Cline over an intoxicating refrain of strings and horns. The captivating guitar work is continued on "Beautiful Love," a popular 1930s waltz that Cline and company put their own spin on with a more prominent lead melody.
Cline's attention to melody and rhythm during his solos is exceptional on Lovers. Rather than simply flying across the fretboard for minutes at a time, Cline's flourishes of insanity are used sparingly, making them refreshing bursts rather than mindless noodling.
The record is diverse and remarkably dynamic. It has an organic sound that seems to embrace and envelop the listener, which lends itself well to the "mood music" that Cline has created. Some of the tracks, like "Cry, Want," are particularly spacious, and showcase Cline's tasteful vibrato; others, like "You Noticed," are more intricate, with crooning saxophones that build throughout the song.
There are certainly lulls among the 18 tracks, moments of randomness, and even an occasional lack of direction. But if Cline is indeed trying to conjure a feeling of romance through instrumental jazz, he's done just that on this record. (Blue Note)