Julian Lage – Arclight

arclight(Mack Avenue)

The guitarist’s debut for this label finds him swapping acoustic guitar for a Fender Telecaster and exploring a mix of his own tunes and some from earlyish in jazz’s history with double bassist Scott Colley and drummer Kenny Wolleson along for the ride.

Maybe it’s Lage’s upbeat tendencies that have drawn him to pre-bebop tunes – they certainly work a treat. Included here are the 1927 Gus Kahn/Neil Moret piano roll Persian Rug, the Fain/Kahal Second World War anthem I’ll Be Seeing You, W. C. Handy’s Harlem Blues and Nocturne, from the Swing band leader and author of The Art Of Coarse Cricket, Spike Hughes.

That last named, under Lage’s fingers, acquires the twang of a cowboy campfire lullaby, with Wolleson in fine slap-snare mood. Lage has always had strong country leanings, just like his long-time mentor and band boss, vibraphonist Gary Burton, and he gets to show them to winning effect here.

Those influences tie in nicely with his self-declared obsession with Keith Jarrett’s American Quartet recordings and the pianist’s folksong style of composition and rhythm. An original like Supera rolls along with a mood that is half Jarrett and half Sonny Rollins. Wolleson adds some subtle vibes background to it which adds to the sunny disposition.

The way in which Lage varies his tone and attack so creatively and seemingly effortlessly, his virtuosity so lightly worn, his gorgeous flowing improvisations, the strength and catchiness of his writing, and the lovely cohesion of the band – listen to them interact and create space on Stop Go Start – all combine to make this a joyous listening experience.

The guitar prodigy is growing into a really all-round jazz master.

Categories: CD review

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