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Jazz guitar prodigy Julian Lage

June 18, 2011 |  9:00 am

Julian More than a collection of tunes, Julian Lage’s recent EmArcy release “Gladwell” is an unassuming concept album, a travelogue that offers sonic snapshots of its namesake fictional town and inhabitants. The guitarist and his chamber jazz quintet, who’ve honed a singular style based upon intricately orchestrating folk-tinged themes and forms, don’t shoehorn the compositions into the concept. Rather, their tour of Gladwell serves as an organizing principal, lending each tune and the entire program a pleasing narrative flow.

“The subtext was, what can 60 minutes of music feel like,” says Lage, 23. “We really sat down and thought about how many records do we love beginning to end? Let’s give this a structure, a reason why you listen to this song seventh rather than first.”

As a child prodigy, Lage has always consorted with musicians much older, players shaped by the primacy of LPs and CDs (these days when he’s not touring with vibraphone great Gary Burton he’s often playing with fiddle master Mark O’Connor’s Hot Swing Trio, or drum maestro Eric Harland’s Voyager). The guitarist knows he’s swimming against the digital tide, where music is dispensed track by track on iTunes, or video by video on YouTube.

With the backing of a major label, he couldn’t pass up the experience of making albums (his 2009 debut “Sounding Point” earned a Grammy nomination for best contemporary jazz album). But like many musicians of his generation, Lage doesn’t see recording albums as an organizing principle of his career.

 For the Arts & Books article about his latest project, click here.

-- Andrew Gilbert

Photo credit: Getty Images