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Julian Lage: Ahead of the Curve

Julian Lage drops a lot of names. There was the time, for example, when Carlos Santana invited his fellow guitarist onstage, and the recording session with David Grisman, and the run as a core member of Gary Burton’s band. Impressive credentials for any musician, but the hook is that Lage notched off these accomplishments at ages 8, 11 and 16, respectively. At 8-three years after he first picked up a guitar-Lage was the subject of a documentary film (appropriately titled Jules at Eight), in which the already gifted young axman nonchalantly cited Coltrane and Wes Montgomery as his preferred listening. At 12 he appeared both on the annual Grammy telecast and at the San Francisco Jazz Festival.

So the word “prodigy” invariably comes up quickly in any conversation with Lage, and it’s a tag he neither shrugs off nor exploits-there’s no sense of bigheadedness as he unfurls his remarkable tale; it’s just an unavoidable chapter in his bio, and he’s cool with it. But right now all that backstory just serves as a lead-in to discussing Sounding Point (Emarcy), Lage’s stunning debut album. “It’s been a long time coming,” he says, fully aware of what that sounds like from a 21-year-old. “It’s cool being a sideman but you’re really judged on your own merits.”

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