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Julian Lage: View with a Room (Blue Note)

A review of the guitarist's second release on Blue Note

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Julian Lage: View with a Room (Blue Note)
The cover of View with a Room by Julian Lage

There is a certain elusiveness and beauty in guitarist Julian Lage’s playing that’s reminiscent of his influences Charlie Christian and Jimmy Bryant. As he describes it, “there’s this almost electric volatility to their sound. It’s both beautiful and kind of sharp; it’s subdued and warm, but also kind of gritty.”

On his second album for Blue Note, Lage seeks to capture that same magic, both incorporating lush orchestration via two electric guitars and stretching his improvisational skills to the next level, as he so often does on each recording. The end result is View with a Room, 10 original compositions that encapsulate historical references to the Beach Boys, Keith Jarrett’s American and European Quartets, and George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass.

Instead of adding an entire string ensemble to the mix to give his music more of an orchestral feel, he keeps his original trio setting with longtime bandmates bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Dave King but adds veteran six-stringer Bill Frisell. He is the spark that helps give Lage his dream of adding extra layers of instrumentation to each track.

Frisell and Lage jell beautifully together on tunes such as the graceful opener “Tributary,” “Auditorium,” and the driving “Chavez,” which keeps Roeder’s heavy bassline running through the song as the strings seamlessly rip through dozens of chords. “Temple Steps” gives off bluesy Caribbean vibes, and on the more swinging “Word for Word” Lage’s swift runs are a standout.

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Overall, this is a vibrant mix of swing, blues, and elegant arrangements that showcase the growing compositional skill of one of today’s brightest jazz guitarists. Let’s hope for plenty more Frisell and Lage collaborations in the future.

Learn more about View with a Room on Amazon and Apple Music

For Julian Lage, Love Hurts and Music Heals

Veronica Johnson

Veronica Johnson is a freelance music writer from Detroit. She has written for Detroit-based publications Metro Times, Real Detroit Weekly, Model D, and The Michigan Historical Review, as well as the national jazz site The Jazz Line. Her work on Detroit hip-hop was published in the 2014 book A Detroit Anthology. She is also a board member of the Detroit Sound Conservancy, a grassroots Detroit music preservation organization.