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Wilco’s Nels Cline brings some brotherly love to Union Transfer with his one-night-only Lovers (for Philadelphia) performance

Nels Cline | photo by Zoran Orlic | via the artist’s Facebook page

When he’s not playing guitar in Wilco, Nels Cline has evidently been spending some time studying the music of iconic Philadelphia artists. This June, the experimental jazz musician will bring his own renditions of Philly-made songs to the city itself for a “One-Night-Only Love Letter to the City of Brotherly Love,” and it’s shaping up to be not your everyday concert. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Nels Cline at Ardmore Music Hall and Desoto Jones at Underground Arts

nels cline
Nels Cline | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

Nels Cline may be known as Wilco’s guitarist, but on his own he’s somewhat of an experimental jazz icon. Cline will bring his jazz skills to Ardmore Music Hall tonight, performing in trio form along with drummer Gerald Cleaver and saxophonist Larry Ochs. The three musicians draw inspiration from everything from free jazz to  structured improvisation to noise punk. Find tickets and more information on tonight’s show on the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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Ars Nova presents two nights of experimental exploration with Nels Cline, Nick Millevoi and more

Nel| Photo by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.tumblr.com
Nels Cline | Photo by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.tumblr.com

When he’s not slinging his six-string around the world with Wilco, guitarist Nels Cline can often be found participating in one or more avant-garde music projects. The latest is a rare collaboration with Detroit/NYC drummer Gerald Cleaver and and San Francisco saxophonist Larry Ochs, which will perform for two nights at Johnny Brenda’s in December.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Nels Cline at Boot & Saddle, Spill at Ortlieb’s, Michelle Lordi at Philadelphia Museum of Arts and more…

Wilco at Solid Sound Festival | Photo by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.tumblr.com
Wilco at Solid Sound Festival | Photo by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.tumblr.com

Ars Nova Workshop presents the Nels Cline / Larry Ochs / Gerald Cleaver Trio at Boot & Saddle tonight. Cline, perhaps best known for his role in Wilco, spent a large part of his career as an exploratory and experimental jazz musician. Just last year he released a collaboration with NYC avant garde outfit White Out called Accidental Sky, which received nods as one of 2015’s best experimental albums. Tickets and information for tonight’s trio performance can be found here. Watch Cline perform a song at Johnny Brenda’s for Out of Town Films below.

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Guitar wizard Nels Cline mezmerizies a sold-out Johnny Brenda’s crowd

Nels Cline | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com
Nels Cline | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

Buck, Brownstein, Hitchcock, Stern, Timony, and Cline. On Friday I added the final of this list of great guitarists to my list of whom I have seen on the small stage of my favorite Philly venue, Johnny Brenda’s. (And in case first names are necessary, they are Peter, Carrie, Robyn, Marnie, Mary, and Nels.) With his oddly named crew in tow — Nels Cline Singers — 120 minutes or so of experimental jazz and rock crackled and popped among the packed audience.

Hanging on Cline’s every guitar flourish, the crowd was certainly mesmerized. From six strings to twelve, Cline employed his guitars with unexpected twists and turns. With pedals, knobs, metal apparatuses galore and even some plastic box he blew through into the guitar, Cline kept one’s ears and eyes startled with his techniques. The rest of the Singers belted out notes from their varying instruments to further build on the texture. Trevor Dunn played both the upright bass and bass guitar with expertise, while two percussionists had a blast — drummer Scott Amendola and toybox and triangle soundsmith Cyro Baptista.

Vocals did appear in minor spurts, even from Cline himself, but they played a backing role to the cacophony of aural information. By the end of the encore, the Philadelphia audience’s applause also became a common piece of sound that Cline will never be a stranger to.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Nickel Creek at Tower Theater, Matt Pond PA at Underground Arts, Nels Cline at Johnny Brenda’s

Photo by Brantley Gutierrez

Acoustic folk trio Nickel Creek are riding high on the success of their new album A Dotted Line, which arrived last month and coincided with their 25th anniversary as a band. Tonight they bring the excitement to the Tower Theater stage. Mostly folk but at times leaning toward bluegrass, their music, which rests on the band’s intricate musicianship and harmonies, has a raw quality that’s soulful at heart. Watch them perform “Rest Of My Life” live on Soundcheck below and get tickets here.

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Curtis Cooper covers Willie Nelson, Witch H(c)unt covers The Moldy Peaches for new West Philly-centric comp

Curtis Cooper | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN
Curtis Cooper | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN

In my regular digging around on Bandcamp last week, I came across a terrific collection of cover songs that seems like it was released apropos of nothing. Which, sometimes, is the best way to release music.

Recorded by local musician Georgey V over the winter on a Fostex 160 multitracker, COOL PHILLY BANDS RECORD COOL SONGS pretty much delivers what its title promises, hovering in the vicinity of the West Philadelphia basement show scene. Of note is Doriana Thornton’s Witch H(c)unt project covering one of my favorites from The Moldy Peaches, “Lucky Number Nine.” Curtis Cooper brings jazzy strums and a lo-fi crackle to their version of Willie Nelson’s “Crazy” (popularized by the great Patsy Cline, of course). And Georgey V pops up in the mix as well to close the set with the Dr. Dog deep cut “Adeline.” Continue reading →

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Philly bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma on risk-taking, Outsiders Improvised Festival, and the state of jazz in 2018

Jamaaladeen Tacuma
Jamaaladeen Tacuma | photo courtesy of the artist

While you should listen to jazz every day of the year, April is Jazz Appreciation Month and with it the City of Philadelphia’s Philly Celebrates Jazz, a spotlight on our deep and fascinating connection with the music and culture. This includes lectures, exhibitions, films, and of course live performances. It was all kicked off a week ago in City Hall with the presentation of the annual Benny Golson Award to acclaimed electric bassist and North Philly native Jamaaladeen Tacuma.

Tacuma’s storied career is intertwined with Philadelphia and the jazz scene here. The Thomas Edison High School graduate passed on a scholarship to Berklee School of Music to start playing with local organist Charles Earland and then go on an extended European tour with the great Ornette Coleman and his band Prime Time. This was in 1975, when Tacuma was just 19. He recorded with Prime Time and other Coleman bands for the following decade, cementing his tight relationship with the late saxophonist and his music. Continue reading →

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Philly Jazz Guide: Top picks for live music around town in April

David Fishkin will lead an Alice Coltrane tribute at Underground Arts this month | photo by Chris Hayner | courtesy of the artist

April is Jazz Appreciation Month, and there’s no shortage of ways in which to show your appreciation in Philly over the next 30 days. The official kick-off came a couple of days early on Thursday, with Mayor Kenney presenting the Benny Golson award to bass great Jamaaladeen Tacuma at City Hall. Continue reading →

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The Skeleton Key: A Blizzard of gigs for March including Creten lutes, London postpunks, and a Bugg

Palm | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Palm performs at the First Unitarian Church on March 26th | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

You heard that story about Barbara Streisand getting her dog cloned, twice? I’ve been thinking about getting the same thing done to myself, just so I maybe can go to all the awesome shows happening this month. Unfortunately I went to school for journalism and not biomedical engineering so instead of having a mad scientist lair full of half-baked clones walking into walls while screaming, “I can’t wait for Superchunk and Swearin’ next month!” … I’m writing this column saying the same.

Welcome to the March edition of the Skeleton Key, your friendly neighborhood gossip column. As I sit here working on this, the weather report is calling for nonstop rain and possibly even snow for the next 24 hours. But just because it’s gross out doesn’t mean you should stay inside! It doesn’t keep bands home and so it shouldn’t keep you home. So bundle up and get to the gig. Continue reading →