Definitively Diverse


Guitarist Nels Cline is a tall drink of water with a resume as long as he is. But his career has not traveled a straight line. It’s complicated enough, in fact, to be difficult to explain in the usual stylistic terms. No doubt, it won’t be a typical night of music when Cline plays two sets--one solo and one duo--at Ventura City Hall tonight.

The Los Angeles-based musician, who recently has been scooping up various awards, is a jazz guitarist of sorts, but one who veers far left of the mainstream. He loves rock energy and engages in experimental abuses of his instrument--from maniacal strumming and creating intentional feedback to applying kitchen tools to strings for various sonic effects.

In “jazz,” he has worked with Tim Berne, Bobby Bradford, Vinnie Golia and many others. On the rock front, he has worked with former fIREHOSE bassist and now solo artist of note Mike Watt, as well as with Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore. He also was the guitar-sound maker for the critically respected, if commercially doomed, alternative rock group known as Geraldine Fibbers, led by singer-songwriter Carla Bozulich.


That group, as artistically powerful and diverse as it was, drifted apart, but Cline and Bozulich have formed a unique duo, Scarnella, which will perform at tonight’s event.

It’s a multi-style project, from country music to experimental / improvisational asides and many places in between. Cline is one of those special musicians who quietly barrels forward, exploring new ideas and making a ruckus that refuses to be neatly summarized.


Nels Cline and Scarnella, tonight at 8 in the Ventura City Hall atrium, 500 Poli St. Tickets are $7 at the door; 676-9660.

Giddy Musical Manners: As the name suggests, the Freeway Philharmonic, which performs at the Laurel Theater in Ventura tonight, doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that’s mostly a good thing. The group belongs, loosely, to the category of friendly, irreverent chamber-esque bands that nod in many directions--including classical, pop and folk--all with a shameless eclecticism and an ironic wink.

Comparisons to the Kronos Quartet--a more serious ensemble--are farfetched, but parallels to Shadowfax or Bela Fleck and the Flecktones are apt.

The quartet is a balanced one, but with instrumental quirks that give it a distinct sound. Scott Jackson, drummer-percussionist and witty epicenter of the band, triggers samples and odd sounds from his electronic percussion setup, and Larry Tuttle plays the versatile, if unusual, electronic stringed instrument called the Chapman Stick.


On more traditional ground, Novi Novog plays viola, and Robert Stanton plays acoustic guitar.

The players, based in Los Angeles, have done much studio work through the years and mix classical training with pop duty, including work with Bonnie Raitt, Tom Petty and Madonna.

Listening to their 1995 album “Sonic Detour,” on the audiophile Sheffield Lab label, you can hear the technical aplomb of the musicians and also the lighthearted approach in blending folk sonorities with tricky rhythmic and harmonic ideas.

They do a cover of “Good Vibrations,” and their originals go by titles like “Albert’s Go-Kart,” “Happy Feet” and “Underpass Overture.”

Call it progressive chamber folk music, with a giddy attitude.


Freeway Philharmonic, tonight at 8 at the Laurel Theater, 1006 E. Main St. in Ventura. Tickets are $12; 650-9688.

‘Tis the Handel Season: For yet another concert option tonight, Handel’s “Messiah” makes its inevitable way to the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. This is the impressive, bigger-is-better version heard last year, and that will probably be heard again next year and the year after. And who’s complaining? Handel’s classic holds up under annual visitations.


Performing the original 18th century version of the oratorio, Boris Brott will lead his New West Symphony, to be joined by both the Los Robles and Ventura County master chorales. Fine soloists will also be on hand. In the lead roles are soprano Camille King, male alto Alejandro Garri and baritone Nmon Ford-Livene, who all so impressed the crowd last year. And maybe next year?


New West Symphony, Los Robles Master Chorale and the Ventura County Master Chorale, performing Handel’s “Messiah,” tonight at 8 at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza’s Kavli Theatre, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd.; tickets from $8 to $25; 497-5800.