Nels Cline, New Monastery: A View into the Music of Andrew Hill

Peter Blackstock

By Peter Blackstock

on 09.23.11 in Reviews

New Monastery - A View into the Music of Andrew Hill

Nels Cline
Wilco guitarist spotlights jazz pianist Andrew Hill — without the piano

That Wilco guitarist Nels Cline chose to spotlight the music of noted jazz pianist Andrew Hill on this collection seems fitting: Hill’s push-and-pull between his grounding in traditional forms and his insistence in breaking out beyond them is a theme that’s mirrored in Wilco’s body of work. Cline assembled a sextet for this recording, with Bobby Bradford (cornet), Ben Goldberg (clarinet), Andrea Parkins (accordion), Devin Hoff (contrabass) and Scott Amendola (percussion) accompanying his guitar excursions. (Cline’s brother Alex also appears on two tracks.) Transcribing piano compositions for a piano-less ensemble is both the challenge and the reward in such an endeavor; the music can’t help but be reinvented in the process. But that was inevitable simply from the free-jazz approach the musicians take here; this, too, is a nod to Hill, who favored open interpretations. Cline’s material selections tended toward pieces he found suitable for arranging into extended suites; an amalgamation of “No Doubt,” “11/8″ and “Dance With Death” stretches beyond 20 minutes. As an instrumentalist, Cline frequently takes a backseat here; the horns and winds tend to jump out on much of the record. If there’s less of a spotlight on Cline’s own virtuosity, New Monastery is no less enlightening as a further glimpse in to how his creative impulses both mesh with and influence the Wilco framework.