Julian Lage

Modern Lore

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The more things stay the same the more they change. On 2016's Arclight, Julian Lage's first electric date, the guitarist led a trio with bassist Scott Colley and drummer Kenny Wollesen to justifiable acclaim. Singer, songwriter, and producer Jesse Harris, an old pal of the guitarist, helmed those sessions as they wove through jazz history from ragtime through bop and beyond, threaded with enough homespun feel that the album sounded instantly familiar. That trio and Harris reunite for Modern Lore. Lage keeps his electric guitar, too. The music here is an effortless turn from rephrasing jazz through the sound of a Telecaster to engaging rock & roll's circular rhythmic and dynamic possibilities -- which is not to say that Modern Lore is a jazz-rock fusion record. Nope. It's simply instrumental, Americana-tinged rock with a a smattering of jazz improvisation and other exotic touches woven in. Surf and flamenco are threaded into the delightful "General Thunder." First single "Roger the Dodger" offers an angular intro and Steely Dan-esque melody line. Lage's breezy technique combined with Wollesen's drums and vibraphone alternate that sound in a sultry waltz rhythm as Colley's woody bassline adds an edgier danceable strut to the proceedings. "Splendor Riot" has just enough country in it to add a pastoral air, but its bright, gospel-tinged chords and fleet yet repetitive runs offer a delightful twist. The interplay between Colley and Lage in the bridge is simultaneously earthy and elegant. "Look Book" is the only nod to bop, albeit through the combined gazes of mutant sophisticates such as Jimmy Bryant, Speedy West, and Les Paul. Likewise, the wonderfully chaotic "Earth Science," with its razor-sharp arpeggios, decentered rhythms, and knotty exchanges, walks the line between modern jazz and prog. Closer "Pantheon" is a ballad that underscores the relaxed, uncluttered feel that is at the groove-laden core of Modern Lore. This is Lage and his trio playing for themselves and obviously enjoying it; they create an easy intimacy and offer a warm welcome for listeners. The music here is not only solid, but attractive and clever to boot.

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