‘Guitar Innovators’: Fahey, Cline double the pleasure
A movie review of “Guitar Innovators Double Feature,” which includes two documentaries — “In Search of Blind Joe Death: The Saga of John Fahey” and “Approximately Nels Cline.” It’s a fascinating look at two American originals.
Special to The Seattle Times
‘Guitar Innovators Double Feature,’ which includes the documentaries “In Search of Blind Joe Death: The Saga of John Fahey,” directed by James Cullingham, and “Approximately Nels Cline,” directed by Steven Okazaki. 84 minutes. Not rated. Grand Illusion, through Thursday.
John Fahey was “a provocateur in the Romantic mode,” says a friend of the late seminal guitarist in the engrossing film “In Search of Blind Joe Death: The Saga of John Fahey.”
“I live for immersion,” says Nels Cline — lead guitarist for the band Wilco and longtime devotee of improvisational, experimental performance — in the satisfying “Approximately Nels Cline.”
In a way, both statements are true of each artist, an exciting discovery that becomes clear through a thoughtful double bill of the two short documentaries.
But comparisons of Fahey and Cline, two American originals who freely explore, and even create, genres and styles on a journey of restless expression, largely end there.
Fahey, a steel-string instrumentalist and nonvocalist who energized the folk-music scene in the early 1960s with his cyclical, repetitive rhythms, lived and created “in a bubble,” says The Who’s Pete Townshend in “Blind Joe Death.”
Filmmaker James Cullingham reveals both psychological and aesthetic reasons for Fahey’s determination to remain a remote iconoclast sheltered by mystique.
Cullingham offers only broad impressions of Fahey’s deliberate experiments in jazz, classical and electric-guitar composition. One wishes for more detail, but the trade-off is in the film’s penetrating commentary about Fahey’s influences (including nature), his legacy and passion for the guitar as a personal instrument.
Anyone who heard Cline’s barbed poetry on electric guitar at last year’s Wilco concert at the Paramount witnessed this exciting artist’s aggressive use of electronics to process sound into something personal, too.
In “Approximately Nels Cline,” the musician is largely seen engaging his love for collaboration.
“Let your colleagues come into the music, and let that change you,” he says. That’s exactly what happens in Steven Okazaki’s film, and rewards are plentiful as Cline performs with his wife, the keyboardist Yuka Honda, plus trumpeter Ron Miles, percussionist Matthias Bossi and the extraordinary singer-violinist Carla Kihlstedt.
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org