Sunday, February 04, 2018

Julian Lage - Modern Lore (Mack Avenue, 2018)

Julian Lage is a jazz guitarist from California, one that was recognized early on as an emerging talent who began recording after graduating from the Berklee College of Music. He has made some interesting collaborations with the likes of Nels Cline, in addition to leading a trio which is featured here with Scott Colley on bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums. This album adds a more angular sensibility to his music, incorporating aspects of rock and roll, developing a strong rhythm sense which creates well articulated music for the trio. "The Ramble" kicks off the album off in fine fashion with a bright uptempo swing, tossing a respectful nod to Bill Frisell's "Rambler" and developing a nice fast paced rhythmic structure with the bass and drums. Lage develops a stinging solo amidst nimble cymbal play and taut bass, slinging waves of notes and snarling chords into the air. There is a tidy bass solo before the band finishes the song with a flourish. There is a quiet strut to "Atlantic Limited" nodding to blues and roots music, before ramping up slowly to a textural fullness and slightly edgy guitar tone. "General Thunder" is the longest track on the album (although still rather short at 5:26) and it benefits from a solid drum beat that provides a firm foundation for the music, with ebbs and flows of guitar lapping at the shore of the overall sound. The music takes flight on a strong improvised section led by flinty shards of guitar, and framed by the steady rhythmic nature of the percussion and bass. There is a tight intricacy to "Look Book" which has sharp guitar notes and slashing cymbals creating a fine texture as the bass bubbles and simmers underneath. There is an interesting collective improvisation as the band digs in deep together at high speed, and the leader takes a very rapid solo section with excellent rhythm section support. "Earth Science" is the most progressive track on the album, a short and powerful blast of music that is anchored by thick bass and strong bowing and ever changing percussion textures that allow Lage to really step out and play heavy electric guitar that is fast and furious. Overall this album works quite well, the trio was very tight and the songs were thoughtfully designed. Mainstream jazz fans and aficionados of the electric guitar should find a lot to like here. Modern Lore -

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