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Nels Cline & Gregg Bendian

Many consider jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane the most important jazz musician of the twentieth century (some people will argue that the title belongs to Miles Davis, but Coltrane is always way up there). In 1967, he and drummer Rasheid Ali recorded Interstellar Space, a collection of challenging compositions filled with wild improvisation. In 1999, guitarist Nels Cline (The Geraldine Fibbers, Scarnella, Two Dollar Guitar, the Nels Cline Trio) and drummer Gregg Bendian decided to record their own (live!) version of Interstellar Space. Why on earth would they want to do a thing like that?

Cline explains it best: "Doing a new version of the John Coltrane/Rasheid Ali duets of Interstellar Space might seem like a pretentious idea, but it came about rather innocently while playing with Gregg Bendian in his group, Interzone. Gregg's startling speed and dexterity had me pushing the limits of my own technique as we explored the freedom and limits of composition and improvisation. 'If we're gonna keep on like this, we should just go ahead and cover Interstellar Space,' I joked. And so we did. We performed it live a few times and gradually our own voices emerged."

Those voices are both ferocious and tender, as crashing, dissonant chords alternate with intricate arpeggios. Commanding, hypnotic and astonishing, this homage to Coltrane and Ali is indeed a challenge, but one well worth undertaking.