(140) , Audiophile Audition -- 2/5/2009

"...Alex Cline’s Continuation is a quintet outing that embraces different cultural vestiges and philosophies to help create a collective group expression. Cline’s seven original compositions defy any specific genre or style. Instead, they offer an inventive fluidity, a humane grace, and the intimations of a wider perspective that expands the songs into a kind of universal limitlessness. Cline dedicates his latest work to the memory of his mother, Thelma Nelson Cline, who passed away the day before Christmas in 2008, and to his young daughter, Naomi, who is the extension of the Cline family tree. This sense of genealogical succession, of a great circle that blooms unbroken, is punctuated by the opening and closing chapters, “Nourishing Our Roots” and “Open Hands (Receive, Release),” where Jeff Gauthier’s delicate violin, Peggy Lee’s resonant cello, Cline’s abiding percussion and Scott Walton’s intimate bass flow seamlessly as one.

There’s also a sensitivity to the earth and of spiritual spaces, as conceptualized via a Buddhist and lyrical approach. This is implicit in song titles such as “Clearing Our Streams,” “Fade to Green” and “Nourishing Our Roots.” This idea of a communal vision is also emotionally connected to other compositions as well, including “On the Bones of the Homegoing Thunder,” a tribute to Trappist monk/poet Thomas Merton. “Clearing Our Streams” starts with Walton’s solo bass, his arco work affording the tune’s melodic onset, his fingering reminiscent of Oregon’s Glen Moore. Then Cline enters about two minutes later, subtly but invitingly adding a swinging counterpoint, followed by the strings, and finally harmonium weaves in and forms a three-dimensional solo expanse, and moderately but firmly the musicians breath fire into the piece, moving from percolation to a faster pace with resolute textures.

“Fade to Green” is thoughtful but not necessarily tranquil. There’s a feeling of foreboding, tension, and mystery that permeates the unhurried, ambient five minute arrangement. Cline’s multiple percussion effects furnish an unsettling sweep echoed by the plucked and bowed strings and Melford’s pointillistic piano. “Fade to Green” is beautiful but discretely apprehensive, like finding decay beneath a flowerbed.

The eighteen-minute “On the Bones of the Homegoing Thunder” is an epic tone poem that surveys several genres at once. First, there’s a propulsive jazz section. Melford demonstrates her resourceful and expressive sensibility, evoking a merger of Keith Jarrett and Cecil Taylor in her avant-garde accustomed improvisation. Elsewhere, Cline’s percussion pulses underneath exotic, appeased moments, but like other unrestricted dramatic scores, there is a shift from austerity to intensity as the instruments build inexorably to a flash point. As potent as the work gets, however, it finishes with the tinkling of Noah bells and closes with another bubbling jazz segment. It seems certain the jazz-loving Merton would probably have approved of Cline’s open-minded homage..." -by Doug Simpson

Audiophile Audition