The Jazz.com Blog
September 25, 2009 · 0 comments
Boston-based Roanna Forman set the house record a few days back by sending us 14 reviews from the Tanglewood Jazz Festival. Now she has narrowed her focus, and reports on a performance by the young guitar sensation Julian Lage, who recently appeared at Scullers. T.G.
Listening to the technically fantastic and musically imaginative set by Julian Lage at Boston’s Scullers Jazz Club this week, I couldn’t help thinking of Paul Winter Consort and Oregon. Joined by Aristides Rivas on cello, Ben Roseth on alto sax, Jorge Roeder on acoustic bass and Tupac Mantilla’s consistent driving hand drumming and percussion, Lage’s often acoustic feel, while original, with sophisticated, meaningful statements, had definite echoes of Ralph Towner.
Lage’s accomplished, original musicianship and the ECM quality of his sound explain his broad appeal, which was evident from the overflowing crowd. You can dig on Lage if you’ve never listened to, or even cared for swing, hard bop, fusion, or post-modern jazz, in the same way that Pat Metheny’s fan base is widespread. Speaking of Pat, his influence on Lage’s phrasing and use of finger picking is evident in Lage’s playing, although Julian clearly has his own voice.
The band, which has played together for a while, navigates the shifting meters and moods, accents, and dynamics changes with ease, as in “Circle Limit,” which moved from a furious guitar-drum jam to a peaceful ending like a vanishing hurricane. Unlike its work on the CD Sounding Point which was carefully arranged and mixed in the studio, the band went out on improvisational limbs in spontaneous jams. Lage’s guitar dominated the jams, with swift lines, picking, fluffy arpeggios and harmonic accents.
He managed to duet with every instrument during the evening, often with fierce rhythm strumming, feeling the music’s pulse with his partner at displaced stops. The many unusual colors of Tupac Mantilla’s percussion—a small glockenspiel on the galumphing “Wedding Movement Part I,” the boing of spring drum on “Bluegrass Underscored,” or the elastic ripple of the African djembe and Turkish frame drum—contributed significantly to the feel of the music.
There were new compositions, which Lage apparently dashed off last week, to supplement tunes from Sounding Point—a reharmonized “Lil Darlin,” the quirky and sunny “Peterborough,” and a more hard-driving “Motorminder,” with free floating alto lines and an explosive solo by Mantilla on flamenco cajon.
The pretty, diatonic “Working Title” (not to be confused with Sounding Point’s “All Purpose Beginning”) opened the evening, with alto accents arranged in flute-like lines, all pushed along by cajon and other percussion. Lage got a kora-like effect on the introduction to “Circle Limit” by combining the stringed instruments, and took a meditative solo over its form of alternating descending runs and a fat slower section. Roseth’s angular alto lines moved the uptempo section of the “The Nest,” and bassist Jorge Roeder added bluesy verve to “Ode to Elvin.” Lage decided on Astor Piazzolla’s “La Muerte del Angel” for an encore, moving from a langorous repetition of the opening figure to a wild wrap-up by the whole ensemble.
That Julian Lage waited to develop his music before making his first CD is as apparent as it was wise. His sound, already mature, should ripen as he moves in new compositional and musical directions. He is currently working on a new release.
This blog entry posted by Roanna Forman