Julian Lage has shared the latest single from his forthcoming album, View With a Room, with the video for “Chavez” planting the audience in the room with his trio as they work through a conversational jazz composition that once more positions Lage as one of the finest jazz players today.
What’s fun about “Chavez” is that it is fun – that Lage, with Dave King on drums, Jorge Roeder on bass, can’t help but have some fun with a sound that requires no little virtuosity to get off the ground. On this occasion, it’s King who does the honors, with a drum intro that’s all shades of hectic energy, as though he’s shaking loose the very molecules in the air before the track can start.
View With a Room is Lage’s second album for Blue Note, following 2021’s Squint, and will feature the legendary Bill Frisell. Having Frisell onboard has afforded Lage the opportunity to take his sound even further, and investigate the possibilities for improvising on a grander scale.
“In so many ways, I've wanted to make this record for years,” said Lage, when the album was announced. “It comes from a line of musical inquiry: can you have lush orchestration combined with an organic sense of improvisation and the agility of a small ensemble?”
In many respects, it sounds like Lage will be expanding on some of the themes of Squint, an album that recontextualize the electric guitar, connecting its history from jazz through rock ’n’ roll and back again.
Once more, on View With a Room, Lage admits that he is using that lineage as a guiding principle on how orchestration can be reconciled while operating as a trio – albeit one temporarily augmented by Frisell’s genius.
“The answer came from some of the historical references that matter to me about the electric guitar,” Lage said. “There's a certain lineage that grows out of early pioneers like Jimmy Bryant and George Barnes and Charlie Christian, where there’s this almost electric volatility to the sound. It’s both beautiful and kind of sharp; it’s subdued and warm, but also kind of gritty. In thinking about the orchestration for this album, I wanted to foster the point of that arrow.”
Speaking to MusicRadar (opens in new tab) after the launch of Squint, Lage drew a parallel with the evolution of electric and jazz guitar, and the iconoclastic energy of nascent rock ’n’ roll and the danger of improvisation – where everything is held together in the moment.
“I do feel like there is a kinship between early electric guitar and the progression and evolution of jazz guitar. To me, they are not separate at all,” he said. “You had all these wonderful players playing from the banjo tradition to the archtop acoustic guitar tradition, and then as those guitars became electric guitars, not to too far off in the distance – historically speaking – was Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry and all the early pioneers of rock ’n’ roll guitar.
“I actually feel that the electricity – not literally but figuratively – I associate with rock ’n’ roll holds hands with the electricity of improvised music, which is to say they both carry a certain sense of risk, and they both have a certain sense of adventure, and playfulness, and even for that matter volume.”
“Chavez” follows similar video performances of new tracks “Auditorium,” “Tributary,” and “Word for “Word,” all of which were shot on location by Alex Chaloff, and with each sharing the same space, with only the lighting and changing for each song, has made the series a cohesive body of work in its own right.
Lage is on tour right now, and takes to the stage tomorrow, September 1, at the Festi Jazz International de Rimouski, Canada, before hitting Detroit Jazz Festival on September 3. His tour then picks up in Pittsburgh at the Oaks Theater on September 13. See Julian Lage for full dates.
View With a Room is available to pre-order now via Blue Note, and is released September 16.
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