The term "concept album" is usually used in connection with rock, but jazz has had its concept albums as well (Charles Mingus' The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady and Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain, for example, are among jazz's most celebrated concept albums). Gladwell is a concept album from jazz guitarist/composer Julian Lage; in the liner notes, Lage explains that he envisioned this 2010 recording as an aural depiction of "an imaginary and forgotten town known as Gladwell." Lage doesn't use any lyrics to depict his fictional town: Gladwell is strictly instrumental. And Lage, who is heard on both acoustic and electric guitar, is appealingly melodic on his own compositions (which dominate Gladwell), as well as a performance of the standard "Autumn Leaves." As a guitarist, Lage favors an airy sound along the lines of Pat Metheny and Jim Hall, and as a composer, his influences range from Metheny to Oregon to Weather Report. Lage is not a jazz purist; this is jazz mixed with elements of rock, folk, and European classical music. Gladwell is fusion (there is no shame attached to that word), but it isn't the aggressive and heavily amplified fusion one might associate with Scott Henderson & Tribal Tech, Niacin, or early Al di Meola. Actually, the playing on this album is largely, though not exclusively, acoustic. Lage plays a lot of acoustic guitar on Gladwell, and his bassist, Jorge Roeder, is heard on upright bass exclusively (rounding out the quintet lineup are tenor saxophonist Dan Blake, cellist Aristides Rivas, and drummer/percussionist Tupac Mantilla). And while Lage clearly has chops, he doesn't beat listeners over the head with them, or his technique. Lage is very much a storyteller, and that storyteller perspective yields excellent results on Gladwell.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson