1,118

Julian Lage: Stepping Into the Limelight

R.J. DeLuke By

Sign in to view read count
Julian LageA documentary film made in 1996 centers on an eight year-old guitarist who is already a professional and how he mixes that life with everything else, like family and being a kid. At one point, he's shown playing the guitar behind his neck, a la Jimi Hendrix, adroitly picking a melodic line. At another, he lays down some serious blues licks. A voice off camera inquires, "What'cha been listening to lately?"



"Lots of Wes Montgomery. Coltrane," the articulate lad intones, matter-of-factly.



The film was Jules at Eight, a 24-minute short by then-fledgling documentary filmmaker Mark Becker, subsequently nominated for an Academy Award.



The guitar prodigy was Julian Lage, who started playing professionally in the San Francisco Bay area at the age of seven and who, over the years to his ripe old current age of 21, has played with the likes of Gary Burton, Herbie Hancock, Christian McBride, Mark O'Connor, Frank Vignola and more, and has appeared on Grammy-nominated albums by classy vocalist Nnenna Freelon and his friend, pianist Taylor Eigsti.



"It was crazy. It was a really healthy experience," says Lage, who played mostly blues and jazz in those early years. It seems Becker, now an award-winning maker of documentaries, was doing a project for his thesis at Stanford University. "He wanted a young subject who was playing music professionally and leading some resemblance of a normal childhood. He was interested in me. But my parents spoke to him and said, 'We're not really interested. Thank you, but no thanks.' We turned him on to some other players. He checked them out and he came back and said, 'I think I'd like to pursue Jules, if that's possible.'



"After some meetings, realizing that it was to be done from a positive point of view and not an exploitation of me but more about him as a filmmaker, we all agreed it would be good. It's really neat. I came out beautifully. I think he did an exceptional job. It's cool now, as I get older, to have this part of my life documented so artistically, so accurately."

A lot happened early to Lage, including his first recording at age 11 with the renowned Dave Grisman, and being discovered around that same age by vibes master Burton after being seen performing on the nationally televised Grammy Awards telecast. He's developed into a player of prodigious technique. He's studied jazz and classical music, was weaned on blues, and has covered bluegrass, folk and similar stylings by hanging with the likes of banjo wizard Bela Fleck and playing Dawg Music, mandolin player extraordinaire Grisman's special brand of music that incorporates many types of American music, including bluegrass and jazz.



Observed on stage, Lage picks complex and attractive figures from his Martin acoustic axe with clean and sharp articulation—and a kind of ease. He knows his way around the electric, too.

Julian Lage Yes, a lot happened at an early age and there's plenty more for this talented west coaster turned Bostonian. He's beginning to step more into the limelight, and with that comes his first recording as a leader, Sounding Point (EmArcy, 2009). It is a good musical representation of Lage's career thus far, covering the styles he loves in different configurations. It also gives a glimpse of where he's going, at least in the near term. He says the time was right to make this musical statement.



"It felt like the right time for a number of reasons," Lage said in February 2009, just hours before boarding an airplane to Paris to promote the new disk. "I've been traveling mostly as a sideman for most of my musical career and loved it; I loved being in that position, learning from these master players.



"I had offers when I was younger to make my own record. Though I felt like I could put something together, I never felt that I was going to make the record that I wanted to listen to. I always had this dream of making a record that was kind of between styles. Not only jazz, but bluegrass, classical and other influences. The big turning point for me was moving to Boston from California. I went to Berklee for a couple years. Within that time I started caching ideas for a record. What would this hybrid record be? The first part was having the space or the time to do it and focus on it. The second was putting the band together. Once I found the musicians that could play this stuff beautifully and inspire me to no end, then I knew this was the right time.

"Everything came together organically around the band."

Tags

Watch

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Album Reviews
Live Reviews
Radio
Live Reviews
Album Reviews
Live Reviews
Album Reviews
Live Reviews
Album Reviews
Multiple Reviews
Album Reviews
Live Reviews
Multiple Reviews
Album Reviews
Live Reviews
Album Reviews
Read more articles
Love Hurts

Love Hurts

Mack Avenue Records
2019

buy
Modern Lore

Modern Lore

Mack Avenue Records
2018

buy
Arclight

Arclight

Mack Avenue Records
2016

buy
World's Fair

World's Fair

Modern Lore Records
2015

buy
Gladwell

Gladwell

EmArcy
2011

buy

Upcoming Shows

Date Detail Price
Sep18Wed
Julian Lage
The Sinclair
Cambridge, MA
Sep20Fri
Julian Lage
Johnny Brenda's
Philadelphia, PA
Sep21Sat
Julian Lage
Union Stage
Washington, DC
Oct7Mon
Julian Lage
Kuumbwa Jazz Center
Santa Cruz, CA
Oct11Fri
Julian Lage
Mississippi Studios
Portland, OR
Oct12Sat
Julian Lage Trio
Columbia City Theater
Seattle, WA
$23 - 23

Related Articles

Interviews
Carlo Mombelli: Angels and Demons
By Seton Hawkins
April 22, 2019
Interviews
Anoushka Shankar: Music Makes the World a Better Place
By Nenad Georgievski
April 17, 2019
Interviews
Dorothy & George Jacob: Putting Bray On The Jazz Map
By Ian Patterson
April 16, 2019
Interviews
Harold Danko: His Own Sound, His Own Time
By Jakob Baekgaard
April 8, 2019
Interviews
Nenette Evans: My Life With Bill
By Bruce Guthrie
April 5, 2019
Interviews
Aaron Rimbui: Nairobi to New York City
By Seton Hawkins
April 2, 2019
Interviews
Matt Davis: Big Family, Big Picture
By Dan Bilawsky
March 21, 2019