Julian Lage is a member of a peer group of young modern jazz guitarists who include Lionel Loueke, Adam Rogers, Ben Monder, Lage Lund, and Joel Harrison. His open-ended acoustic-oriented sound pays homage to Ralph Towner and Jim Hall, while incorporating various European classical elements, excluding flamenco. He's at times exciting or laid-back with little middle ground, emphasizing the melodic aspects of his sound, also exploring pure improvisation on occasion. This recording showcases Lage in various solo, duo, trio, and quartet settings, with help from American pianist Taylor Eigsti, Peruvian bassist Jorge Roeder, and banjo icon Béla Fleck, with mandolinist Chris Thile, soprano saxophonist Ben Roseth, and hand percussionist Tupac Mantilla. The trio tracks with Fleck and Thile approach superhuman proportions with remarkable interplay, as they fly through the David Grisman-like "dawgrass" piece "The Informant," the playful "Alameda," and the more spatial "Long Day, Short Night." The self-explanatory trio track "Quiet, Through and Through" with Roseth and Roeder is quite different and owns a borderline ECM stance, parallel to the music of Oregon. The duets between Eigsti and Lage include the improvised underground ruminating blues of "Tour One" and a slow and loose version of "All Blues." Another standard, "Lil' Darlin'" from the Count Basie book, is wonderfully adapted with guitar, bass, and percussion in a modal darker spirit song mood that bears repeated listenings to hear all the subtle underpinnings. Of the full quartet tracks, "Clarity" is astounding in its variations, from free or balladic to a lively 6/8 beat with Mantilla's insistent frame drum, while "Motor Minder" is subdued, but similarly spirited. Lage's solo work owes to Towner's lithe and startling technique, as "Familiar Posture" and "Constructive Rest" both fare well in comparison to his clear and present influence. This is as impressive a debut recording as you'll hear from the plethora of jazz guitarists who dot the landscape. Its diversity, depth of character, and high level of musicianship bode well for the future of Julian Lage -- a legitimate rising star.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos