Cline's playing channels the spirit of Coltrane with a rare intensity, which seems to spring from the same well Jimi Hendrix would have drawn from had he survived to realize his post-rock aspirations." S.F. Weekly
Nels Cline is one of the most versatile, imaginative and original guitarists active today. Combining breathtaking technique with an informed musical intelligence, Cline displays a mastery of guitar expression that encompasses delicate lyricism, sonic abstractions, and skull-crunching flights of fancy, inspiring Jazz Times to call him, "The World’s Most Dangerous Guitarist." Born in Los Angeles in 1956, his earliest musical influences included Jim "Roger" McGuinn, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, John Fahey and Duane Allman. Later these giants as well of those of jazz, jazz/rock, punk and the improvising avant-garde twisted his head around. Cline claims his most valuable music training came from his work with bassist/multi-instrumentalist Eric von Essen, with whom he performed as a duo from 1977 until von Essen’s untimely death in 1997.
In the late 1970s, Cline played in the chamber-jazz group Quartet Music with his brother, percussionist Alex Cline, violinist Jeff Gauthier and bassist von Essen. Quartet Music recorded 4 albums and toured extensively, a 12 year run that was highlighted by two performances in 1989 with the Milwaukee Symphony for which Nels arranged several of his compositions. Clines’ 1987 Enja release, Angelica, which added New York City altoist Tim Berne to a roster of longtime Cline collaborators Alex Cline, Stacy Rowles, Eric von Essen, is a fine example of his work from this period.
In 1989, the guitarist formed the amped-up Nels Cline Trio, a worthy vehicle for Cline's guitar excursions, which range from probing, reflective balladry to bracing freeform assaults. The Nels Cline Trio recorded 4 CDs, Chest, Ground, Sad and Silencer. The success of the trio format served as a launching pad for Cline's current band, The Nels Cline Singers, which features drummer Scott Amendola and bassist Devin Hoff.
Some of the musicians that Nels has performed and/or recorded with include: Julius Hemphill, Charlie Haden, Mike Watt, Tim Berne, Mark Dresser, Bobby Bradford, Zeena Parkins, Elliott Sharp, Thurston Moore, Gregg Bendian, Mark Isham, The Geraldine Fibbers, Wadada Leo Smith, Henry Kaiser, Banyan, Bloc, fIREHOSE, Carla Bozulich and Scott Amendola.
Artists that Nels currently performs with include: Wilco, Scarnella, The Scott Amendola Band, the Jeff Gauthier Goatette, a duo with percussionist Glenn Kotche, a trio with Andrea Parkins and Tom Rainey, Banyan and The Nels Cline Singers.