Nels Cline
Get Nels Cline essential facts below. View Videos or join the Nels Cline discussion. Add Nels Cline to your topic list for future reference or share this resource on social media.
Nels Cline
Nels Cline
Nels cline.jpg
Cline in 2004
Background information
Nels Courtney Cline
Born (1956-01-04) January 4, 1956 (age 63)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
GenresFree jazz, experimental, noise
LabelsCryptogramophone, Nine Winds, Atavistic, Enja, Little Brother, Strange Attractors, Audio House, Long Song
Quartet Music, Nels Cline Trio, The Nels Cline Singers, Wilco, Geraldine Fibbers, Mike Watt, Banyan, G.E. Stinson, Vinny Golia, Carla Bozulich, Devin Sarno, Eric Von Essen, Thurston Moore, Big Walnuts Yonder

Nels Courtney Cline (born January 4, 1956 in Los Angeles)[1][2] is an American guitarist and composer. He has been the guitarist for the band Wilco since 2004.

He first came to prominence in the 1980s playing jazz, often in collaboration with his twin brother Alex Cline, a drummer. Since then, he has worked with a wide range of musicians in punk and alternative rock, notably Mike Watt and Thurston Moore. He also leads the groups the Nels Cline Singers, Nels Cline Trio and The Nels Cline 4.

Cline was named the 82nd greatest guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone magazine in November 2011.[3]


Cline playing a double-necked guitar with Wilco in 2010

Cline began to play guitar at age 12 when his twin brother, Alex Cline took up the drums. The pair developed musically together, playing in a youth rock band they dubbed "Homogenized Goo"[4] and both graduated from University High School (Los Angeles, California). He cites hearing a recording of Jimi Hendrix performing "Manic Depression" as a defining moment in his decision to become a guitarist.[5]

Cline is known for his improvisational work and for the diversity of his musical projects, as well as his use of effects pedals and looping devices which give his music a distinct sound. He has played with jazz musicians Charlie Haden, Gregg Bendian, Wadada Leo Smith, Tim Berne, Vinny Golia, Julius Hemphill and the late bassist Eric Von Essen, a longtime musical companion in the L.A. jazz group Quartet Music.

In 1983, Nels was asked by drummer Chris Mancinelli and bassist Steuart Liebig to join the early formation of BLOC. The trio developed musical ideas for about a year. At this point they added another guitarist Nicholas Kirgo and vocalist Camille Henry. The quintet became a Los Angeles club favorite and garnered much praise from the local press and media. Practically every major label was interested at some point but no major label seemed to have a clue how to promote the multi-talented group. In 1990 with Tony Peluso producing, they were signed with A&M Records after turning down a previous offer from Atlantic Records. The album "In the Free Zone" was released in early 1991. A&M at this point was in the middle of being sold to Polygram and there was little support at the label for the band. They were bought out of their 2-album deal and promptly dropped a month after the album's release. After 8 years of performing and recording the group decided to break up and move on.

Cline in Aarhus Denmark 2014 playing with the BB&C Band

In the years 1984-1986 Nels was a member of the JAH Band. Members of this group were Julius Hemphill (leader, as, ss), Alex Cline (dr), Jumma Santos (perc) and Steuart Liebig (eb). In 1984 they recorded Georgia Blue (Minor Music). Also Bill Frisell and Allan Jaffe played some gigs as additional guitarist with the JAH Band.

Cline has also performed and recorded with punk rock bassist Mike Watt in his touring bands The Crew of the Flying Saucer and The Black Gang, as well as with members of Sonic Youth and country music legend Willie Nelson, and in the jazz/punk/improv band Banyan with Watt and Jane's Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins. He frequently participates in jazz projects with his twin brother, Alex, however their first actual duo together was in Culver City, California, at their 50th birthday show.

Cline's first appearance on an album was on Vinny Golia's 1978 record, Openhearted, and his first work as a bandleader was 1988's Angelica. In the late 1980s, Cline formed the Nels Cline Trio, which featured his guitar playing complemented by Mark London Sims at bass and Michael Preussner at drums. The trio released several 7 inch demos and one album, before replacing Sims with Bob Mair at bass. This new trio released three albums before splitting up, featuring some of Cline's most melodic works, before he ventured into a freer and more minimalist territory in the decade to come. Shortly before the end of the trio, Nels recorded two albums, In-Store, and Pillow Wand, with Sonic Youth frontman and guitarist, Thurston Moore.

Nels was also a member of the Geraldine Fibbers and Scarnella with Carla Bozulich. He played on, co-arranged and co-produced her The Red Headed Stranger album guest-starring Jenny Scheinman, Scott Amendola, Devin Hoff and Willie Nelson, as well as Bozulich's Evangelista albums. Additionally, the two worked sporadically on performance pieces, album co-production/recording, countless tours adding up to hundreds of concerts and more during their 12-year collaboration.

In 1999, Cline paired up with jazz drummer Gregg Bendian to record a modern rendition of John Coltrane's 1967 album, Interstellar Space. On Interstellar Space Revisited: The Music of John Coltrane, Bendian and Cline reinterpret Coltrane's piece using their own distinctive approaches. He also participated in ROVA's Electric Ascension (2005), a performance of Coltrane's landmark large-ensemble recording Ascension (1965).

Cline's current outfit is the improv/free jazz ensemble The Nels Cline Singers, with which he has recorded four albums, Instrumentals, The Giant Pin, Draw Breath and Initiate, his most recent work as a leader. The Nels Cline Singers are currently signed with Cryptogramophone Records.

Another important project of Cline's has been the Acoustic Guitar Trio, a free-improvisation group with Jim McAuley and the late Rod Poole that specialized in microtonal improvisation.

Cline has performed on over 150 albums in the jazz, pop, rock, country, and experimental pop music genres. He continues to expand his audience as a member of the Grammy-winning rock band Wilco, which he joined in early 2004. He was later featured in the cover story of Guitar Player Magazine for his collaboration with the band.[6] Cline appears on Wilco's albums Sky Blue Sky, Wilco (The Album), The Whole Love, Star Wars, and Schmilco as well as the live album Kicking Television: Live in Chicago, and tours with the band.

In February, 2007, Cline was chosen by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the Top 20 New Guitar Gods, and given the title "The Avant Romantic."

Currently, Cline is using the Schroeder DB-7 red amplifier built for him by Tim Schroeder of Schroeder Guitar & Amp Repair (Schroeder Audio, Inc.) in Chicago, IL.[7]

In 2012, he appeared on a cover of the Tommy Bolin song "Dreamer" with Myles Kennedy.

In 2014, Cline collaborated with jazz guitarist Julian Lage. The pair released Room, an album of Jazz compositions written and recorded by the duo.

Personal life

Cline is married to Yuka Honda of Cibo Matto.[1][8] Their wedding was held in Honda's hometown in Japan in November 2010.[1][8] They met through Mike Watt when he put together the group Floored by Four.[1][9] Honda joined Nels Cline Singers for their live shows after having her input in their new album Initiate. Watt and Cline's other recent project band, Brother's Sister's Daughter for a tour and recording session in Japan for their second album.[] Cline also joined Honda as a guest guitarist in Yoko Ono Plastic Ono band in some of the dates in their tour in 2010.[10] Cline joined Honda and her band Cibo Matto at the 2015 Solid Sound Festival.[11]


With the Nels Cline Trio

With the Nels Cline Singers

With Quartet Music

  • Quartet Music (Nine Winds, 1981)
  • Ocean Park (Nine Winds, 1984)
  • Window on the Lake (Nine Winds, 1986)
  • Summer Night (Delos, 1989)

With Wilco


As sideman

With Scott Amendola

  • Cry (Cryptogramophone, 2003)

With Banyan

With Bonny Barnett

  • Delay in Gravity (Nine Winds, 1994)

With Steev Richter

  • Beloved (Steev Richter, 2016)

With Gregg Bendian

  • Gregg Bendian's Interzone (Eremite, 1997)
  • Myriad (Atavistic, 2000)
  • Requiem for Jack Kirby (Atavistic, 2001)

With Tim Berne

  • 7X (Empire, 1980)

With Bloc

  • In a Free Zone (A&M, 1991)

With the Blue Man Group

With Carla Bozulich

With Alex Cline

With Brad Dutz

  • Camels (Nine Winds, 1993)
  • Krin (Interworld, 1995)


With John Fumo

  • After the Fact (Nine Winds, 1986)

With Jeff Gauthier

  • Mask (Cryptogramophone, 2002)

With the Geraldine Fibbers

  • What Part of Get Thee Gone Don't You Understand? (Sympathy for the Record Industry, 1997)
  • Butch (Virgin, 1997)

With Vinny Golia

  • Openhearted (Nine Winds, 1979)
  • Blood and Concrete: a Love Story (IRS, 1991)
  • Against the Grain (Nine Winds, 1996)
  • Razor (Nine Winds, 1996)
  • A Nation of Laws (Nine Winds, 1997)
  • One, Three, Two (Jazz Halo, 2003)

With Dennis González

  • The Earth and the Heart (Konnex, 1991)

With Grey Pavilion

  • Grey Pavilion (Pink Shoe, 1983)

With Joel Harrison

  • 3+3=7 (Nine Winds, 1997)

With Julius Hemphill

  • Georgia Blue (Minor Music, 1985)

With Deborah Holland

  • Freudian Slip (bugle/Dog & Pony, 1994)

With Rickie Lee Jones

With Osamu Kitajima

  • Beyond the Circle (CyberOctave, 1996)

With Wayne Kramer

  • Citizen Wayne (Epitaph, 1997)

With Steuart Liebig

  • Pomegranate (Cryptogramophone, 2001)

With Mary Lou Lord

With Lydia Lunch

With Roberto Miguel Miranda

  • Raphael (Nimbus, 1981)

With Wayne Peet

  • Blasto! (Nine Winds, 1988)

With Rhythm Plague

  • Dressed for the Apocalypse (Killzone, 1984)

With Scot Ray

  • Active Vapor Recovery (Cryptogramophone, 2003)

With AJ Roach

  • Dogwood Winter (New Folk Star, 2003)

With Rova::Orchestrova

With G. E. Stinson

  • Vapor (Ecstatic Peace, 1999)

With Wadada Leo Smith

With Walter Thompson

  • Stardate (Dane, 1980)

With Jeremy Toback

  • Jeremy Toback (Cherry Disc, 1996)

With Mia Doi Todd

With Noe Venable

  • The World Is Bound by Secret Knots (Petridish, 2002)

With Mike Watt


  1. ^ a b c d Fusilli, Jim (2010-10-05), "Four Rock Nomads Unite for a Fleeting Tune", The Wall Streer Journal, retrieved
  2. ^ California Births, 1905 - 1995, Nels C. Cline
  3. ^ "100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved .
  4. ^ Hoinski, Michael (2009-05-08). "Nels Cline on Masturbation, Thurston Moore, and Wilco's New Record". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on 2009-05-10. Retrieved .
  5. ^ Poole, Rod. "Nels Cline: In The Avant-Garde Spotlight" (Audio interview). Rod Poole's Gradual Ascent to Heaven. National Public Radio. Retrieved 2013. 1:45 "It was hearing Jimi Hendrix one afternoon on the AM radio, the song was Manic Depression. That was it. We were both literally jumping up and down and freaking out."
  6. ^ *"Steadfast Inclinations". Barry Cleveland. Guitar Player Magazine. March 2005.
  7. ^ Drozdowski, Ted "How to Get Wilco's Live Guitar Sound" Archived 2012-09-07 at the Wayback Machine,, April 20, 2009, accessed January 31, 2011.
  8. ^ a b Gilbert, Andrew (2011-01-27), "Nels Cline and Yuka Honda treasure time together", The Seattle Times, Seattle, Washington, retrieved
  9. ^ Interview: Mike Watt talks about Yoko Ono gigs, Music Illuminati, 2011-01-27, retrieved
  10. ^ Tulich, Katherine (2010-09-30), "Musicians pay tribute to John Lennon and Yoko Ono", Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, California, retrieved
  11. ^ Wilco Tinkers and Experiments at a Festival It's Happy to Share, 2015-06-29, retrieved

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



Music Scenes