Review: Julian Lage

Sounding Point

Sounding Point

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

Though he's only just released his debut album, guitarist Julian Lage has been a musician's musician since childhood: Visit YouTube and you can watch him playing with his guitar behind his back in a clip from the film "Jules at Eight." Lage graduated from child-prodigy appearances with Carlos Santana and Pat Metheny to grown-up sideman gigs with Gary Burton and his pianist pal, Taylor Eigsti. At 21, Lage displays masterful chops, distilling guitar traditions from prebop swing to bluegrassy flash into an original sound marked by a clarity of execution and fresh, surprising turns of phrase.

Sounding Point is so negligibly packaged that it could easily slip under the radar or be mistaken for just another guitar-geek recording. In fact it's a major find—springy, intelligent chamber Americana that fits perfectly into a spectrum of Nonesuch-style players like Bill Frisell and Chris Thile's Punch Brothers. It's not unexpected, then, when Thile shows up to pluck mandolin in a delicately voiced duet of Elliott Smith's "Alameda," or when banjoist Bla Fleck trades licks with Lage's acoustic guitar on "The Informant." Both tracks revel in the sheer joy of musicianship as the players shadow, dovetail and duel with each other, dissolving in a harmonic swirl, only to erupt again. Lage is as compelling in more subdued settings, creating moods with saxophonist Ben Roseth in "Peterborough" or reinventing Neal Hefti's "Lil' Darlin'" as a sweetly abstracted ensemble exercise.

Julian Lage plays Joe's Pub at the Public Theater Tue 31.

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Sounding Point