Julian Lage Group


The term “fusion,” as applied to jazz, doesn’t necessarily mean plugging in, playing loud, and rocking out. Fast-rising guitar virtuoso Julian Lage takes an alternate route with his quintet, by melding jazz, American and Irish folk, African, and European classical elements into an intriguing new form of chamber music that’s both gentle and rife with syncopation and surprise. The Santa Rosa-born, New York City-based musician plays mostly acoustic guitar on a variety of vintage instruments, but switches to electric here and there. He’s joined by saxophonist Dan Blake, cellist Aristides Rivas, bassist Jorge Roeder, and hand percussionist Tupac Mantilla. The seven ensemble pieces on Gladwell — six written by Lage, one by Blake — intricately blend composition and improvisation, and the haunting sonorities Blake and Rivas create when playing together on “Listening Walk” have an Ornette Coleman/Don Cherry-like quality. Lage overdubbed solo guitar improvisations — one over the first, then another over those two — on three tracks, but for the set’s two non-original selections, he played acoustic guitar entirely alone, brilliantly reinventing the popular standard “Autumn Leaves” and the Elizabeth Cotton folk favorite “Freight Train.” Lage is also a member of vibraharpist Gary Burton‘s current quartet, with which he appears on the just-released CD Common Ground and will perform at the Stanford Jazz Festival on June 25. (EmArcy)


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