Alex Cline

Alex Cline

Alex Cline has a musical sensibility and sensitivity that belong to another time... a time when intimate thoughts were best expressed by someone sitting down, setting pen to paper, and sending their innermost feelings by land or sea, to be read by the intended a few days or weeks later... in short, a time when "time" really counted. Peter Erskine

Alex Cline Born January 4, 1956 in Los Angeles, Alex Cline began playing the drums at age eleven, first in rock bands with his twin brother, guitarist Nels Cline. Alex's interest in a larger sonic vocabulary caused him to gather a large family of percussion instruments that he has been heard playing mainly in the "jazz" and "new music" genres. After beginning a musical association with woodwind artist Jamil Shabaka in 1976 as Duo Infinity, Alex Cline’s musical activities began to flourish. In 1977 Cline became a member of Vinny Golia's group as well as the Julius Hemphill Trio (along with Baikida Carroll, a unit which toured Europe and recorded that year), formed the electric improvisational trio Spiral (with Nels Cline and synthesizer player-multi-instrumentalist Brian Horner), and began performing solo percussion concerts.

Since that time, Alex Cline has performed and/or recorded with numerous musical artists including Vinny Golia (both in small groups and his Large Ensemble), Arthur Blythe, Tim Berne, John Carter, Bobby Bradford, Julius Hemphill's JAH Band (with Nels Cline, Bill Frisell, Steuart Liebig, and Jumma Santos), Richard Grossman, Don Preston, Henry Grimes, Charlie Haden, Joseph Jarman, Myra Melford, Nels Cline (in his groups Destroy All Nels Cline and the Blue Mitt Ensemble), Adam Rudolph, Yusef Lateef, Gregg Bendian’s Interzone, Steuart Liebig (in his groups Seconda Prattica, Kamerstig, and Lane Ends Merge Left), John Rapson, Horace Tapscott, Philip Gelb, G.E.Stinson, Barre Phillips, Charles Lloyd, Tom McNelley, the European collective Shooting Stars and Traffic Lights, Baikida Carroll, Michael Vlatkovich, Frank Morgan, Wadada Leo Smith, Scot Ray, Takako Uemura, William Roper, Erik Friedlander, Susan Rawcliffe, Mark Dresser, Biggi Vinkeloe, Andrea Centazzo, Miya Masaoka, Dana Reason, Nathan Hubbard, Mark O’Leary, Kim Richmond, Theo Saunders, Dan Clucas, George McMullen, Motoko Honda, Walter Thompson, Buddy Collette, James Carney, Roberto Miguel Miranda, Harris Eisenstadt’s Ahimsa Orchestra, Dave Fiuczynski, Dennis Gonzalez, John Wolf Brennan, Rob Blakeslee, Kate McGarry, Henry Kaiser, Mark Weber, Henry Kaiser and Wadada Leo Smith's "Yo Miles!" project, Karl Berger, Marty Ehrlich, Jim McAuley, Stephanie Haynes, Joel Harrison, BLOC, Jey Clark, Nicholas Kirgo, Judy Silvano, Steve Lockwood, Chris Dundas, Tina Marsh, Grey Pavilion, Lenny Carlson, Burton Green, John Fumo, Lynn Johnston, Iris Lord, Thirteen Frightened Girls, Sam Phipps, John Wood, and Wayne Peet (in duo, quartet, and in Wayne's group Doppler Funk). He has also worked in percussion duos with Ron George, Gregg Bendian, Peter Erskine, Christopher Garcia, and Dan Morris.  His musical pursuits have taken him all over the United States, Europe, and Canada, including appearances at many major jazz festivals.

In 1979, Alex, Nels Cline, Eric von Essen, and Jeff Gauthier formed Quartet Music, a group that enjoyed continued success in its performances and four recordings over an eleven-year period and was awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council. Several of Alex's compositions were performed and recorded by this ensemble. In summer 1989 Quartet Music performed its music for two consecutive evenings together with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Alex Cline has served as composer and/or performer for numerous modern dancers and dance companies in Los Angeles, including Margaret Schuette, Linda Fowler, the Momentum Company (for whom he served as music director for their "Soundspace" concerts), Dance/LA, the UCLA Dance Company, Belinda Cheng’s Auricle Ensemble, Oguri and Roxanne Steinberg (Body Weather Laboratory), and Open Gate Theatre, a dance-music-theater ensemble founded and led by dancer-musician Will Salmon, which Alex has been involved with since 1983. Visual artists with whom Alex has collaborated for live performances include Carole Kim, Yoshio Ikezaki, Kio Griffith, 2-Tu, and Norton Wisdom.  He has worked on feature and cable television film soundtracks, done numerous sound workshops and percussion clinics, plus lecture-demonstrations on Asian metal percussion instruments.

Alex recorded his first album, a solo percussion double-LP called Not Alone (on the 9 Winds label), in 1982.  In 1987, he recorded his first album as a bandleader-composer entitled The Lamp and The Star (on the ECM label). Thus began the twelve-year life of the Alex Cline Ensemble, a group that experienced some shifting in personnel but which retained the same core of players throughout its history, which produced three more albums. In 1992, this ensemble recorded their second album, Montsalvat, released in January 1996 on the 9 Winds label.  Sparks Fly Upward, recorded in April 1998, and its companion album The Constant Flame, recorded in 2001, were released on Cryptogramophone Records.  The critically acclaimed albums were produced by Peter Erskine. His new recording, Continuation (featuring Jeff Gauthier, Peggy Lee, Myra Melford, and Scott Walton), is slated to be released on Cryptogramophone in early 2009.  Cline's compositions have also been heard on recordings or in performances by Quartet Music, Dennis Gonzalez, Shooting Stars and Traffic Lights, Barre Phillips, and the Jeff Gauthier Goatette. Alex has also initiated some successful improvisational collective units, notably Cline-Gauthier-Stinson, Cloud Plate (with Kaoru, Miya Masaoka, and G.E. Stinson)--both of which are documented on recordings—and the Rain Trio (with Eric Barber and Scott Walton).  

Profiles of Alex have appeared in such publications as Down Beat, Modern Drummer, Avant, the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Pasadena Weekly, LA City Beat, and Glue, and he is one of the artists featured in the book Percussion Profiles by Trevor Taylor and Michael Bettine, book and CD featuring twenty-five of the “world’s most creative percussionists.”  He has also been curator for Open Gate Theatre’s hosting of monthly Sunday evening concerts of creative and unusual music since 1997, most of those years at the Center for the Arts in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles.