Juxtaposing Nels Cline’s wildly inventive guitar playing and use of electronic effects with the Grammy Nominated Aizuri Quartet’s classically-based and forward-thinking musical outlook, Seven Limbs sets these five musicians in a landscape that is slightly unfamiliar – where the ground under their feet is always shifting a bit in unexpected ways.
The piece is a ritual in seven movements, based on the Seven Limbs, a fundamental Tibetan Buddhist practice of purification. The limbs are: Prostration; Offering; Confession/Purification; Rejoicing; Requesting the Turning of the Wheel of Dharma; Beseeching the Spiritual Guides Not to Pass Away; and Dedication.
7:00pm / Pre-concert conversation with Douglas J. Cuomo and Nels Cline
Douglas J. Cuomo: Seven Limbs (NY premiere)
$20 Garden Listening tickets are available to those who would like to listen to the concert from the grounds. The best place to listen is from Friends Field, where guests will have to bring their own chairs/blankets. (As a reminder, guests will not be able to view the concert; this ticket is just for listening). This ticket is completely FREE for Caramoor Members. View the Caramoor Map.
A true guitar polymath, Nels Cline’s recording and performing career spans jazz, rock, punk, and experimental musics with over 200 recordings, including 30 as a leader, to his credit. His many accolades include being anointed by Rolling Stone as both one of 20 New Guitar Gods and one of the top 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
Born in Los Angeles on January 4, 1956, Cline and his twin brother, drummer Alex, formed a teenage rock band called Homogenized Goo, inspired by the groundbreaking psychedelic guitar work of Jimi Hendrix’s Manic Depression, Jeff Beck’s solo on The Yardbirds’ Happenings Ten Years Time Ago, George Harrison’s playing at the end of the Beatles Strawberry Fields Forever and Pete Townshend’s feedback squalls on I Can See for Miles. Later rock guitar influences for Nels included Steve Howe from Yes, Jan Akkerman from Focus, and Roger McGuinn from The Byrds. “I just loved psychedelia — reverse guitar stuff, Indian-type drones, distortion, and feedback. It all created a sense of the mystery and magic of sound that maybe set the stage for me to not to just play straight rock my whole life.”
Electric Miles Davis, specifically In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew, Live/Evil, On the Corner and Get Up With It, would open the door for Cline to some new musical horizons, along with late period John Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders and Albert Ayler. Nels and his brother Alex would eventually come under the tutelage of such West Coast free jazz icons as multi-instrumentalist Vinny Golia and bassist-pianist-composer Eric Von Essen, who played duets with Cline on the guitarist’s first recording, 1980’s Elegies. There followed a series of recordings with New York avant-garde alto saxophonist Tim Berne (The Five Year Plan, 7X, Spectres) and with Berne’s mentor Julius Hemphill (1984’s live Georgia Blue) before Cline hit a prolific streak in the ‘90s with a string of releases by the Nels Cline Trio. The guitarist’s 1999 release, Interstellar Space Revisited (The Music of John Coltrane), his explosive duet with drummer Gregg Bendian, gained a lot of critical attention in the jazz world. He followed with a string of eight uncompromising releases through the 2000s for the Cryptogramophone label, including 2002’s debut by the Nels Cline Singers, Instrumentals, and their 2004 follow-up, The Giant Pin, that put him on the avant-garde map.
Cline’s profile was elevated to a whole other level after joining Wilco in 2004, subsequently appearing on 2005’s Kicking Television: Live in Chicago, in 2007’s Sky Blue Sky, 2009’s Wilco (The Album), 2011’s The Whole Love, 2014’s Alpha Mike Foxtrot, 2015’s Star Wars, 2016’s Schmilco and 2019’s Ode to Joy. For his ambitious 2016 Blue Note debut, Lovers, Cline defied all expectations by delivering a sumptuous chamber-orchestra feast of mood music that was an unapologetically romantic paean to the Great American Songbook, inspired by his muses Bill Evans, Jim Hall, Gil Evans, Jimmy Giuffre, Sonic Youth and Henry Mancini. For his 2018 follow-up on Blue Note, Currents, Constellations, he pared it down to a quartet, dubbed The Nels Cline 4, and showcased a tight two-guitar interplay with his six-string partner Julian Lage on some heated collective improvisations across a wide range of moods. His 2016 double album debut on Blue Note, Lovers, was called “quietly ravishing” by The New York Times, “stunning” by Downbeat and “wildly inventive by Rolling Stone while his 2018 follow-up, Currents, Constellations, was called “vibrant, adventurous…a skronking, shredding, shapeshifting good time” by Stereogum. Joined by his upstart crew of Skerik, Brian Marsella, Trevor Dunn, Scott Amendola, and Cyro Baptista, The Nels Cline Singers take things up a notch on Share the Wealth, his third Blue Note release.
Praised by The Washington Post for “captivating” performances that draw from its notable “meld of intellect, technique and emotions,” the Aizuri Quartet was awarded the Grand Prize and the CAG Management Prize at the 2018 M-Prize Chamber Arts Competition, along with top prizes at the 2017 Osaka International Chamber Music Competition in Japan, and the 2015 Wigmore Hall International String Quartet Competition in London. The Quartet’s debut album, Blueprinting, featuring new works written for the Aizuri Quartet by five American composers, was released by New Amsterdam Records and nominated for a 2019 GRAMMY Award.
Through its engaging and thought-provoking programs, branded by The New York Times as “genuinely exciting” and “imaginative,” the Quartet has garnered critical acclaim for bringing “a technical bravado and emotional power” to bold new commissions, and for its “flawless” (San Diego Union-Tribune) performances of the great masterpieces of the past.
The Quartet has performed extensively throughout North America, as well as in Europe, Japan, Mexico, Chile,
Costa Rica, and Abu Dhabi, and has commissioned and premiered new works by Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw, Lembit Beecher, Paul Wiancko, Yevgeniy Sharlat, Gabriella Smith, Rene Orth, Michi Wiancko, and Alyssa Weinberg. Their 20-21 season highlights include performances at Lincoln Center, San Antonio Chamber Music Society, National Gallery, Dallas Chamber Music Society, the Kennedy Center and a special performance of John Adams’ Absolute Jest with the Milwaukee Symphony.
Caramoor’s 2015-16 Ernst Stiefel Quartet-in-Residence, Aizuri Quartet has been combining four distinctive musical personalities into a unique collective since 2012. The Quartet draws its name from “aizuri-e,” a style of predominantly blue Japanese woodblock printing that is noted for its vibrancy and incredible detail. They are currently based in New York City.
Note from the Composer
This piece is inspired by an ancient Buddhist purification ceremony called The Seven Limbs. It’s part of a meditation practice I do every day.
The practice has lots of words; the piece has none. The feel of this ceremony is what I kept going to as I composed, and then at some point I realized I was setting text without using words.
For me Seven Limbs is a dream-like piece; I can look inward to a new terrain and find out what’s there. Stillness, turmoil, suppleness, euphoria, high drama. I wrote it for Nels Cline and the Aizuri Quartet because, for composers, to write for great players is another kind of dream. Together, we offer you our dream, in the hope it makes some connection with you.
– Douglas J. Cuomo
The Seven Limbs
If you put a musician in a place where they have to do something different from what they do all the time…that’s where great art happens. – Miles Davis
The piece is a ritual in seven movements, based on The Seven Limbs, a fundamental Tibetan Buddhist practice of purification. The limbs are: Prostration; Offering; Confession/Purification; Rejoicing; Requesting the Turning of the Wheel of Dharma; Beseeching the Spiritual Guides Not to Pass Away; and Dedication.
Juxtaposing Nels Cline’s’ wildly inventive guitar playing and use of electronic effects with the Aizuri Quartet’s classically based and forward thinking musical outlook, Seven Limbs sets these five musicians in a landscape that is slightly unfamiliar – where the ground under their feet is always shifting a bit in unexpected ways.
This requires a musical alertness and philosophical openness to whatever the moment brings, an outlook that has parallels to the Buddhist practice of The Seven Limbs. Inspired by this thinking, the piece creates a world of musical ideas and settings that allow the musicians to explore ideas of meditative tranquility, subtle levels of mind, the battle with inner demons, the circle of karma, and sudden, profound bolts of insight.
Cline plays electric guitar with effects, and acoustic guitar. His music is partially notated but largely improvised, following specific direction and guidelines in the score. The Aizuri’s music is notated, utilizing the full range of techniques, colors and effects available to the 21st century string quartet, including some bits of improvisation and on-the-fly decision making. Both strings and guitar are shapeshifters in that the roles of soloist and accompanist are fluid — at times the guitar is in front with the string quartet playing a more supportive role, at other times the guitar conjures a multi-layered and evolving drone-like sonic environment and the strings step to the fore. There are also many instances when both are on equal footing, intertwining in a way that makes such distinctions moot.
All artists and dates are subject to change and cancellation without notice as we work closely with local health experts and officials. Please note that all performances at Caramoor are in compliance with current New York State Regulations. Read our latest Health & Safety updates.