Live review: Alex Cline & Nels Cline at Moss Theater, January 13.


Twins are family, it doesn't get any closer than that. And they were celebrating their recent 62nd birthday with a duo performance in a Santa Monica neighborhood a modest stroll from where they grew up. But as Nels said, looking out over the full auditorium (whose location he recalled from his youth as Hot Tub Fever), this was also a wider family reunion, of folks who'd been following Nels and Alex Cline's progress for decades. So the emotional component almost equaled the musical.

Alex began as usual with a reverberating stroke on his Tibetan metal singing bowl, which cleaned the air for the sounds that followed. He pulled rich resonances from an array of gongs, then settled behind his percussion palisade. Nels started quietly too, with a metal rod stuck in the strings of his worn Fender Jazzmaster and his fingers twitching the knobs of effects devices laid on a little table. Alex's mallets tumbled across the skins; Nels levitated into a simple India-inflected riff by Paul Motian. They surged from sleepy beauty to portentous, full-throated masses, rolling like a ship in a gale as Nels accompanied himself via electronic loops.

Things got more violent when Alex launched into a furious trashcan solo and Nels switched to a black 12-string for his own "Forge" and "Squirrel of God." Back to Motian-land and the Fender, the duo breezed into almost traditional jazz before breaking the mold with tumultuous freedom in the '60s mode. (They've been known to assail the John Coltrane-Rashied Ali duet "Interstellar Space.")

Tall and thin, togged out in similar tidy shirts and pants, Nels and Alex did little to disguise their twinhood aside from Nels' spikier haircut and Alex's wire-rimmed specs. They shared focus with equal intensity and no need for eye contact, Nels rocking on his plimsolls and Alex making endless circuits around his well-accoutered kit. And they drew us into their world, a colorful, stimulating planet indeed.

At the end, with everyone standing, there were hugs and tears. Not just on the stage, either.

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