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Julian Lage

Speak To Me (CD)

Guitar virtuoso Julian Lage has recorded Speak To Me, his vivid and wondrously textured new Blue Note album produced by Joe Henry which offers a series of dispatches from his ongoing search for narrative beyond words. Intimate in tone and capacious in intention, the music travels a wide range of American music, and delights in the deliberate crossing of wires between gospel hymn and rural blues, California singer-songwriter sunshine and skronky jazz.

Speak To Me showcases the guitarist in a variety of settings, including solo acoustic, duo, his accustomed trio with bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Dave King, and a larger ensemble with keyboards (from Kris Davis and Patrick Warren) and woodwinds (Levon Henry). It’s Lage’s fourth effort for Blue Note, and it’s part of a torrent of creative activity that includes his participation in Charles Lloyd’s Trio of Trios project and records with Terri Lynn Carrington, John Zorn, and Cautious Clay.“

Throughout my life, I’ve always responded to music that has a narrative quality to it,” Lage says, explaining that he sees his recent compositions as less a departure than an extension of originals from previous albums, notably his 2021 Blue Note debut Squint. “I believe there is a kind of connective tissue that music has, and it’s important, and it’s fun to cultivate.”

When Joe Henry—the singer, songwriter, and producer responsible for landmark albums by Solomon Burke, Allen Toussaint, and many others—first heard Lage’s songs in rough form he says he was immediately captivated by the challenge of the project: “For me it became ‘How can we make a record where Julian is improvising throughout, as is his gift, while we’re also attending to the song?’ Everything had to exist in service to the song form.”

Lage marvels at how Henry managed to shape the vibe of Speak To Me without speaking much at all. “Ever so discreetly, he would guide things,” he says. “Joe holds a space for things to happen. Sometimes that means getting everyone out of the way, or protecting the tune from someone getting in the way. It’s like he had a forcefield around the project.”

1. Hymna
2. Northern Shuffle
3. Omission
4. Serenade
5. Myself Around You
6. South Mountain
7. Speak To Me
8. Two And One
9. Vanishing Points
10. Tiburon
11. As It Were
12. 76
13. Nothing Happens Here