Julian Lage is a tremendously talented acoustic guitarist and by all accounts a polite, mild mannered kind of guy. Though this might not be the whole story. The cover picture of his album is of twenty used matches, which is thought to refer to his worries of becoming burnt-out after being hailed as a child prodigy then burdened with the lofty expectations of his admirers.
Lage was an accomplished blues guitarist when featured in the Oscar-nominated film documentary Jules at Eight
. A year later, at nine, he was invited on stage to trade licks with Carlos Santana
. Then, into his teens, he performed with, in turn, virtuoso banjo player Bela Fleck, bluegrass flat and finger picking ace Doc Watson and jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton
. Now in his 30s, he no longer feels the need for such demonstrations of virtuosity.
Lage, based in New York, told Rolling Stone
magazine: "I remember very vividly being a kid and people saying, 'You're so good for being such a young age.' I'd say, 'Thank you,' but I'd be thinking, I want to be good for any age. That was always my goal."
He kicks off with the melancholy "In Heaven," by Peter Scott Ivers, a harmonica player, songwriter and television personality murdered in 1983 at the age of 37. Ivers' killer has never been brought to justice. There's some microphone distortion on this track early on, but it doesn't get in the way that much and the rest of the album is fine.
Next up is a dazzlingly fast treatment of the title track of Ornette Coleman
's 1959 album, "Tomorrow Is The Question." Then Lage stays with jazz for Keith Jarrett
's "The Windup," a second Jarrett number, "Encore (A)" and a lesser known piece by Jimmy Giuffre, "Trudgin'"
But what he does best is to revisit and transform melancholy old pop numbers. His arrangement of the title track, an Everly Brothers' hit from 1965, is quite stunning and his playing of it makes you forget the number's lachrymose country origins.
Better still is the old Tommy Dorsey
hit, "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You." On this, Lage abandons any consideration of what might or might not be expected of him and takes it along nice and slowly, exploring the beautiful old melody to the full.
He quietly exits with another sensitive treatment of a pop weepy, Roy Orbison's "Crying," from 1962.