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Julian Lage: Gladwell

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Julian Lage at the CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival

There was a time not so long ago when merging jazz with other genres tended to involve either fusing it with rock rhythms or going a more European-classical route (à la artists associated with the ECM label). These days, though, musicians are casting wider nets in their search for new combinations of sounds. A case in point is Gladwell, the brilliant young guitarist Julian Lage’s even better follow-up to his Grammy-nominated debut album of two years ago, Sounding Point.

The prodigy is all grown up now at 23, more dazzling than ever on guitar, and fronting a tight, unorthodoxly instrumented ensemble of cellist Aristides Rivas, percussionist Tupac Mantilla, bassist Jorge Roeder and saxophonist Dan Blake. There’s a chamber-jazz feel to the group, what with Rivas’ cello and the way Blake’s playing sometimes calls to mind the pristine, soaring tone of saxophonist Jan Garbarek. But the Blake-composed tune “However,” for example, pulls Afro-pop, Irish fiddle music and American folk influences into a mesmerizing mix. “Margaret” celebrates Lage’s singer-songwriter friend and occasional collaborator Margaret Glaspy, Blake’s switch to melodica gives “Cocoon” a European-folk feel, Latin- and flamenco-like inflections appear here and there, and the trio piece “Iowa Taken” sounds at times like something Oregon or Pat Metheny might have done.

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