Julian Lage: Notes With The Weight Of Words

Leo Sidran By

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When Julian Lage plays guitar, it's hard not to get swept up in it. His relationship with the instrument is natural and contagious. Maybe that's because it's been with him for most of his life. When he was just 8 years old, Julian was the subject of an Academy Award nominated documentary film called Jules at Eight. Before he entered his teens, he had already performed with Carlos Santana and jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton. While still in high school he was a faculty member of the Stanford Jazz Workshop. So he was undoubtedly a child prodigy.

Today, Lage plays like someone in love. Despite his productive personal relationship with singer-songwriter Margaret Glaspy (she co-produces his new record, Squint along with Armand Hirsch), perhaps the deepest love affair of his life may in fact be with the guitar itself.

We talked recently about his new record—his first on Blue Note, which he recorded with drummer Dave King and bassist Jorge Roeder. He told me his story, how he traversed those murky waters of youthful exceptionalism and came out on the other side with more sensitivity, to the music, to his audience, and to himself. During the course of the conversation, Julian also described the connection between the artist and the audience and how he thinks about notes as having the weight of speech. "I want it to feel like I'm talking to you when I play."

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