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Interviews

Julian Lage: Stepping Into the Limelight

By Published: March 23, 2009
The CD has many colors and moods, from the elegant and thoughtful solo guitar of "Familiar Posture" and "Constructive Rest," to the delicate interplay of Lage's band, with cello and saxophone dancing deftly with Lage's guitar lines on "Clarity." There are trio collaborations with special guests Fleck and Nickel Creek/Punch Brothers mandolinist Chris Thile that exhibit remarkable interplay and support. All three mesh superbly on "Alameda." There are also examples of the impressive Eigsti-Lage duo, including a rendition of "All Blues."



Says Lage, "It's almost a retrospective record as a first record because I've been so fortunate to weave in and out of the acoustic world, the jazz world and the blues world—in duos and trios and different configurations. I felt really lucky because I could draw on the lot. When I was putting together the record I wanted it to showcase the first stage of my musical life, the last 15 or 16 years. Calling on Béla and Chris made a lot of sense. I grew up playing a lot with Béla. Practicing with him, hanging out with him when I was younger. Thile was someone I had heard about through a lot of mutual friends. I admired his music. We'd crossed paths, but we never actually connected until I decided to do this record. I said, "We're going to get Chris and Béla together and we're going to write some stuff." It was such a natural process and it showcases what I grew up with, which wasn't straight-ahead jazz always."



A CD release party is slated for March 31, 2009 at Joe's Pub in New York City.



Burton, one of his mentors, had been listening to the music before its release. "I was amazed at how original the stuff is. I didn't know what he was going to do for his first record. It turned out to be this fascinating mix of folk and classical and jazz. I've got to hand it to him. He really came up with something original," says Burton.



"I'm thrilled," notes Lage. "I'm very, very excited about this project." The band was put together specifically for the record, but the guitarist hopes to be playing with these musicians in clubs and venues, getting the music out and developing it more. He also is already planning another recording that would feature the band, as well as other possible configurations. New compositions are something Lage will also include.



"I love the process of composing," he says. "I admit it's scary. I'm not one of those folks who feel completely comfortable all the time. I have more experience improvising than composing. I think I'm developing a more natural relationship with composition. I'll sit down even with a somewhat bad idea and trust that something good will come out of it. I know it's worth the time."



The current band is important to Lage, and he wants to keep it his main priority over other performing and recording possibilities. "The guys in the band are just as committed as I am. I feel a responsibility to not only maintain what we did on the record, but really push it forward. It's a great, fun, wonderful responsibility. I love putting everything I can into it."



Lage put everything he can into playing the guitar since childhood.



"My preference as a guitarist is acoustic. If I can just play the Martin D-18GE, that's what I use, every day, I would. As an experience, it's amazing. You have this full range of frequencies. It's loud, it's quiet. It's everything. The reality is, I couldn't play acoustic all the time with my band because there are volume issues and timbre issues," he says. "But electric guitar is incredible. I feel very lucky to have this setup I have. It manages really well with this band and allows me to cross over into stuff like Eric Harland

Eric Harland
Eric Harland
b.1976
drums
's group or Taylor's group; higher-energy jazz ensembles. I like to be able to back and forth, but in my heart I'm an acoustic guitarist."



While jazz is a strong part of his background, it doesn't limit Lage. He enjoys all the flavors he has sampled over the years and has found ways to meld them. He also finds opportunities for improvisation in any style.

"As a player, I feel I can move in the cracks between jazz and folk and blues guitar. That's how I view myself. An acoustic guitarist primarily, who can play in these different fields. I don't see myself as a jazz guitarist, but there's no question that it's a huge part of my influences. Part of my background in jazz guitar is the Django Reinhardt

Django Reinhardt
Django Reinhardt
1910 - 1953
guitar
gypsy stuff. Growing up I was really fascinated by Jim Hall
Jim Hall
Jim Hall
1930 - 2013
guitar
, Charlie Christian
Charlie Christian
Charlie Christian
1916 - 1942
guitar, electric
, Django. That's my introduction. I wouldn't say I have a strong bebop guitar background. I have more of a modern jazz guitar background."



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