Live reviews

REVIEW: Julian Lage Trio – Love Hurts (in London, 29 March)

Julian Lage Trio – Love Hurts
(Mack Avenue MAC1148. CD Review by Sebastian Scotney)

Guitarist Julian Lage was born on Christmas Day 1987. There’s something so right about that; he does seem prodigiously blessed and gifted. His Wunderkind phase and his Gary Burton phase are now both long gone, he has an assured musical voice which is mature, articulate and individual.

He has a regular trio with bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Eric Doob, and they will be in London this Friday (full details below). The album being reviewed here is what Lage has called “a special edition” of the trio. He has stated that he wanted to “go into a studio for a weekend and do this thing that we won’t ever get to do usually”.

The bassist on the Love Hurts CD is Roeder, and the drummer is Dave King of The Bad Plus. Another unusual aspect of the recording project is the instrument that Lage plays throughout the recording made in Chicago, a 1950s Gretsch Duo Jet. Lage calls it “a dynamic instrument” which I take to mean ‘resonant’. Particularly in the two very slow numbers associated with Roy Orbison, the title track Love Hurts and also Crying, he absolutely revels in this instrument’s capacity to re-echo in a wonderfully sympathetic way.

These two slow, incredibly earworm-ish Orbison covers have also been released on video in the past few weeks:

– Crying is HERE.
– Love Hurts is HERE 

And for those with an appetite to hear more about the background to the album, the instrument (e.g. a long discussion of the siting of pick-ups) there is a long interview HERE.

It is only 12 months since the release of Lage’s previous trio album on Mack Avenue, Modern Lore. I reviewed the touring version of that trio HERE at Pizza Express.

The drummer on Modern Lore was Bill Frisell regular Kenny Wolleson, with bass giant Scott Colley. Modern Lore and Love Hurts make a fascinating pairing to compare. Lage’s assured and individual voice is, unsurprisingly with the albums so close together,  recognizably his. But there is a massive contrast mainly because the drummers are so different. Wolleson has a fabulously precise, and precisely judged touch and response. His playing is totally in-the-pocket and ensures that the focus remains on Lage’s choices throughout. King is very different: he is given full rein to be the soloist, the anarchist, the disruptor. It will come down to a matter of personal choice which one the listener prefers. Others will have different views; my vote goes for Wolleson. A year later I am still listening to Modern Lore for pleasure.

The tone of disruption on Love Hurts is set from the outset. After just 30 seconds of the first track In Heaven, Roeder cuts across the melodic flow from Lage with some pitchless tremolando rumbling. And towards the end of the track, King lands in repeatedly with what seem deliberately randomized interjections and crashes. Later, Lage himself goes off-piste, notably in The Windup and in In Circles. It is as if he wants or needs to create as marked a contrast as possible from the benign-ness of the Orbison tracks, to be more jaggedly abstract, to say no more nice guy, to reveal and to attempt to release an inner Marc Ducret…

I wonder if in 20 years I will read this review and be obliged to confess that I failed to appreciate an album which will prove the start of a major turning-point in Lage’s career. But for the time being, I will go back to Modern Lore, and also to the more adventurous work that Lage is doing with his normal unruffled joy in the Nels Cline 4 with Tom Rainey, both of which I have found far more convincing and authentic than this album.   

Julian Lage’s Trio with Jorge Roeder and Eric Doob will be at Islington Assembly Rooms on Friday 29 March, presented by the Jazz Cafe. 

Support set in Islington this Friday will be from guitarist Rob Luft’s Riser band, with Joe Wright (tenor sax & Electronics), Corrie Dick (drums) & Tom McCredie (bass guitar)

Categories: Live reviews

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