I will be the first to admit, I am not the resident Amadeus jazz expert. I couldn’t list you every instrumentalist on a Coltrane record. I grew up on a lot more Tom Petty than Miles Davis. But what I can describe is how the Julian Lage concert last Friday night made me feel from an alternative singer-songwriter standpoint. The vibe was much of a homecoming show, as Lage himself, a former Berklee College of Music student, played to an audience full of locals and inspiring musicians. The crowd was pin-drop silent during the whole set, hanging onto his every note. Rarely is a musician able to capture attention so strongly in a large room like that.
I’ve been listening to Lage’s records for years and have always been inspired by his perfect marriage of rhythm and melody in his work. His guitar playing has greatly influenced the way I think about composition and how to accompany myself live. What I find so captivating about Lage’s style is that he is able to bring together the fast, dissonant, chaotic sense of jazz improv into very simple, more alternative sounding chord progressions during pieces like “General Thunder” and “Atlantic Limited” (maybe influenced a little by his badass singer-songwriter girlfriend Margaret Glaspy). His choice of a telecaster helps him bridge the gap between jazz and rock, digging more into the grittier tones of a tele. So you can imagine how excited I was to get to see him play live for the first time, after learning the records front and back and studying live videos of him late-nights down a youtube wormhole.
Playing tunes off of his wide catalogue of music, from his latest record Modern Lore to older solo records like World’s Fair, the hour and a half set flew by. Everyone was begging for more by the end of it, for more wildly fast licks, drum solos, or even quiet moments where the audience closely watched Lage’s left hand move up and down the neck. He has this performance power that you can’t look away from.
Lage constantly has new projects in the works, so make sure to catch him on tour, regardless if it’s a solo show, a trio, a new collaboration, etc. His guitar playing will definitely captivate you in any setting he plays in.
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