Julian Lage On Piano Jazz

Jul 3, 2009

Over the years, jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton has gained a reputation as a talent scout. He spotted a young guitarist named Pat Metheny playing at a Kansas jazz festival back in the '70s. Most recently, Burton has introduced another guitarist to the jazz world, Julian Lage.

Just 18 years-old at the time of this taping, Lage has long been considered something of a child prodigy in and around the Bay area where he grew up. He recalls getting interested in the guitar at the age of four, an interest which also inspired his father to take up the instrument. The two began playing together, learning the ins and outs of improvisation, and exploring various musical genres beginning with the blues.

He talks with Marian McPartland about being asked to sit in with Carlos Santana when he was eight years-old and about the letter from Gary Burton several years later that jump-started his jazz career. Burton asked Lage to sit in with his band and after that audition, the two quickly set about playing short mini tours together on a regular basis. At 17, he made his first recording with Burton for the album, Generations, which includes some of Lage's own compositions.

Bassist Gary Mazzaroppi joins the McPartland and Lage as they kick off this session with a few trio numbers, the up-tempo "I Hear a Rhapsody" and the tender ballad "I Should Care."

Jazz guitarists have a unique way with solo tunes, having to sketch out melodies, provide chordal support, all while tossing in some improvisatory licks. Lage's solo chops are very well developed as evidenced by his harmonically complex yet emotional rendering of "My Funny Valentine."

The compositional abilities of host and guest are acknowledged as Lage performs his own tune — the bluesy "Clarity" — which he follows with a straight ahead version of McPartland's tune, "Twilight World." A free form duet follows, beginning in a slightly dark mood but ultimately rising to tinkling, bright ending. The trio reunites for the final tune, "You and the Night and the Music."

Originally recorded Dec. 8, 2005.

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