Famous Guitarist Nels Cline Makes All-Time Favorites New in “Lovers”

Cline and his band also play his own original material and tunes by Sonic Youth, Annette Peacock, and the duo of Arto Lindsay and Peter Scherer.

Nels Cline, one of Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time,” just released the album Lovers, a contemporary take on American Songbook classics.

The concept for the album has been developing since the 80’s, according to Cline. “I would sit on airplanes and make lists of songs, add things and cross things out and make arrows. I always wanted the record to be a somewhat dark and disturbing ‘mood music’ record. My idea was that it would reflect some less-traveled aspects of the idea of romance, love, and sex. It’s gotten a little more upbeat and more varied over time. It has a lot more light in it—as does my life, I suppose, at this point.”

Producer David Breskin and arranger/conductor Michael Leonhart were integral to bringing this project to life.

“I was too daunted by the task,” Cline said. “I would have been better at attacking it myself had I done it sooner, but I think it had been built up in my mind way too much. As Michael and I were hanging out, I just knew that he understood what the palette was and what the moods were—that I didn’t want a lot of saxophones, I wanted clarinets and flutes, and that the material was going to be very wide-ranging.”

Give a listen to “Why Was I Born?”

The Wall Street Journal defined the “unforeseen new style” in Lovers as romanticism, and gave the album a glowing review.

“The two-disc album features Mr. Cline and a large jazz ensemble deftly working their way through American Songbook classics, but it isn’t a repudiation of his other interests. The band also navigates its way through some thorny Cline originals and a tune each by the members of Sonic Youth, Annette Peacock, and the duo of Arto Lindsay and Peter Scherer. What results is a fascinating re-evaluation of the classic tunes, an extension of Mr. Cline’s virtuosity, and a sense that the dots in Mr. Cline’s diverse career connect in previously unseen ways.

“As a result, the standards feel more contemporary—part of a postmillennial musical landscape rather than a soundtrack to a glorious but lost past. Mr. Cline has stripped them of nostalgia but kept the musical core and built upon it.”

This innovative, contemporary take on jazz classics has provided a new way for a younger generation to appreciate and connect with American standards.

“Hairpin & Hatbox” is one of our favorites.

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