Julian Lage: Speak To Me

Editor's Choice

Rating: ★★★★

Record and Artist Details

Musicians:

Dave King (d)
Jorge Roeder (b)
Julian Lage (el g)
Kris Davis (p)
Levon Henry (ts)
Patrick Warren (ky)

Label:

Blue Note

March/2024

Media Format:

CD, 2 LP, DL

Catalogue Number:

1434491

RecordDate:

Rec. date not stated

Over the years since he was discovered as a 12 year-old prodigy, gigs with Gary Burton, John Zorn and Charles Lloyd have not only cemented Julian Lage's reputation for audaciously secure technical command and idiomatic openness, but also empathic sensitivity in a band.

Lage, however, has no trouble holding any stage on his own, as he repeatedly shows on this contrast-packed set of a dozen originals, despite the invaluable guest presences of saxophonist Levon Henry and much-admired pianist Kris Davis within his regular lineup. There are backbeat-smacking electric groovers, catchy country-pop songs, classic guitar-jazz ballads, and lyrical themes that dissolve into free-improv – but the storytelling conciseness of the tracks, and the surprise turns in all of Lage's fastmoving solos, keep you leaning in. The opening 'Hymnal', a lovely acoustic guitar miniature in softly-stroked and sometimes fast-strummed chords, seems to be introducing a contemplative set.

But the crunching ‘Northern Shuffle’ mixes an earthily bluesy rock groove with unexpectedly free-floating melodic embroidery (Lage being endlessly capable of threading torrents of variations into the tightest spaces).

'Omission' sounds like a country-pop song waiting for a singer; ‘Myself Around You’ is a punchy chord-melody ascent resolving in a delightedly euphoric upper chime, and the title track's rimshot backbeat drives an electric guitar vamp from which a freewheeling Lage flies free, with Levon Henry's circling sax whirring beneath. Kris Davis gets a delayed but deserved chance to stretch out on the songlike ‘Tiburon’ near the close. The term ‘complete musician’ is overused, but in both composing and improvising Julian Lage has to be close to one.

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