NELS CLINE ON 'VIGNES': 'Sometime in the late 1990's, I finally heard Rod Poole play solo acoustic guitar. I think it was at The Smell, an all-ages oasis for underground music in downtown Los Angeles. He was playing his just-intonated Martin guitar, fighting the very resonant leakage from the jukebox in the Latino tranny bar next door, it's patrons being showered with blasts of Norteno that threatened a sonic incursion on the intimate, crystalline purity of Mr. Poole's performance. But nothing could sully this moment for me. Many had told me that I should check Rod's music out. He had only been in Los Angeles a few years, transplanted from his native England. He had been playing solo concerts here and there, as well as performing his music for an ensemble of bowed, open-tuned acoustic guitars. He had recorded a bit at the now-defunct recording studio and underground music haven in Los Angeles called Poop Alley, and I think that Poop Alley empresario Tom Grimley may have been the first person to tell me about Rod. But on that evening at The Smell, I was not only dazzled by the beauty of Rod's music and by his concentration, I also wondered how I could find an avenue that would lead me closer to his art, to a possible collaboration of sorts. Eventually, it came to me. I had known guitarist Jim McAuley since the late 1970s. He had played numerous times in the 90s at a concert series I once booked, performing on mostly acoustic guitars in various states of preparation, different tunings, etc. And I have long felt that Jim, always bubbling under the radar after years and years of creative endeavor, was under-appreciated. Like Rod (and unlike me), he possessed serious fingerstyle technique. Like me, he had a non-systematic love and understanding of salient aspects of microtonal music, which was Rod Poole's obsession (well, one of many, it turned out). So I came up with the idea of an improvising, microtonal acoustic guitar trio. When I approached these gentlemen with the idea, they were enthusiastic, which was a bit surprising, especially in Rod's case, because outwardly he had a sort of British reserve, and also because I had heard and felt that he was one serious fellow! Jim had apparently not heard Rod's music, but it was no surprise that when he finally did that he loved it as much as I did. The year was 1999. The Acoustic Guitar Trio, as it would generically be called, was born; a group which I formed but one I did not lead. Our work was purely collaborative. Rod Poole was also a tireless documenter of the local improvising and new music scene. He could often be seen in a corner, in headphones, with his DAT-loaded mini-rack and luggage cart. As such, every bang, scrape, and chime of the Acoustic Guitar Trio was recorded by Rod. Lucky us! The release of this document, 'Vignes' is, of all the 'live' recordings Rod made, the only one that was subject to Trio scrutiny that lead to unanimous agreement on content. We really hoped that someone would release it, in spite of the car noises and whatnot, because we all liked these pieces. Rod could be quite a stickler, and it was his ear for severe editing that shaved two sets of improvising at the Downtown Playhouse (on Vignes Street) in Los Angeles to the three pieces heard on this record. Rest assured there is a lot of other good material waiting in the wings, but this was what we hoped could be the follow-up to the eponymously-named studio recording that Derek Bailey had released on Incus. Time and circumstances beyond our control prevented this. Until now. Sometime around 2003, Rod announced to Jim and myself that he wanted to cease performing 'live' completely. Given his headstrong qualities and seeing what a battle it is to play music of such uncompromising delicacy and subtlety, I really couldn't blame him. This, along with my burgeoning tour schedule with Wilco and numerous other groups coupled with Jim's family responsibilities, caused us to all drift apart, a drift I felt was surely temporary. Unfortunately, Rod Poole was murdered not far from his and his wife Lisa's apartment in Hollywood, the details of which I do not care to go into here. Suffice to say that it was a pointless act of the most heinous type, and we who loved Rod Poole and his music are forever wounded by it. For now, enjoy 'Vignes', a concentrated sampling of three microtonal improvising acoustic guitars. Our methodology was quite simple: make up a tuning on the spot for each improvisation, look around at each other to find the nods and grins of agreement that meant that a promising tuning combination had been arrived at, and GO. For Jim McAuley and me, it was challenging yes, but more like breathing; natural, nurturing. We hope you like the music. All love and respect to Rod Poole, and thanks to Fabrizio Perissinotto for bringing it to the world on Long Song.' - Nels Cline.
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