Julian Lage Group, Neal Alger Trio | SPACE | Jazz | Chicago Reader

Julian Lage Group, Neal Alger Trio Recommended All Ages Soundboard Critics' Picks

When: Thu., March 31, 8 p.m. 2011

Young jazz virtuosos tend to be more interested in showing off their chops than developing a coherent vision, but guitarist Julian Lage bucks that trend—for his second album, Gladwell (due from Emarcy on April 26), he's created a unique and beautiful ensemble sound and gripping solo pieces. At the ripe old age of 23 Lage has already logged serious time as a sideman with vibist Gary Burton and pianist Taylor Eigsti, but the stylistic range of his own superb quintet is broader than those associations would suggest. On the new album's furious opening track, "233 Butler," percussionist Tupac Mantilla thwacks away at what sounds like a cajon, shatters glass, and vocalizes, while Lage strums damped chords that nod to flamenco. In the episodic "However," written by saxophonist Dan Blake, Afropop and Irish fiddle music collide, with Blake and cellist Aristides Rivas playing dazzling unison lines. On a solo performance of the Elizabeth Cotten classic "Freight Train," Lage reconciles the song's blues foundation with classical technique, and his gorgeously inventive solo take on "Autumn Leaves" pulls apart both melody and rhythm. On a trio of short improvisations Lage multitracks himself to create harmonically intricate miniatures rife with barbed melodies and rhythmic tangles. Gladwell isn't perfect—the trio piece "Iowa Taken" is fussy in a fusiony kind of way—but the high points far outweigh the lows. Young jazz virtuosos tend to be more interested in showing off their chops than developing a coherent vision, but guitarist Julian Lage bucks that trend—for his second album, Gladwell (due from Emarcy on April 26), he's created a unique and beautiful ensemble sound and gripping solo pieces. At the ripe old age of 23 Lage has already logged serious time as a sideman with vibist Gary Burton and pianist Taylor Eigsti, but the stylistic range of his own superb quintet is broader than those associations would suggest. On the new album's furious opening track, "233 Butler," percussionist Tupac Mantilla thwacks away at what sounds like a cajon, shatters glass, and vocalizes, while Lage strums damped chords that nod to flamenco. In the episodic "However," written by saxophonist Dan Blake, Afropop and Irish fiddle music collide, with Blake and cellist Aristides Rivas playing dazzling unison lines. On a solo performance of the Elizabeth Cotten classic "Freight Train," Lage reconciles the song's blues foundation with classical technique, and his gorgeously inventive solo take on "Autumn Leaves" pulls apart both melody and rhythm. On a trio of short improvisations Lage multitracks himself to create harmonically intricate miniatures rife with barbed melodies and rhythmic tangles. Gladwell isn't perfect—the trio piece "Iowa Taken" is fussy in a fusiony kind of way—but the high points far outweigh the lows. The Neal Alger Trio opens. 8 PM, SPACE, 1245 Chicago, Evanston, 847-492-8860, $20, $15 in advance. —Peter Margasak

—Peter Margasak

Price: $20, $15 in advance

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