Guitarist extraordinaire Julian Lage and his quintet rolled into Schenectady last Friday to play two outstanding shows at the Van Dyck. With a broad grin and a nod of his head, Lage launched the band into uncharted jazz waters filled with mostly impassioned originals and a few standards. The music was all over the jazz map – one minute it was the bebop of a Joe Pass, the next the rocking interludes of a Mike Stern with a Latin tinge to boot.
His fingers traversed the fret board with childlike ease bringing to mind Pat Metheny, Larry Coryell and even John Scofield, all of whom he shares a kinship with, having been a part of vibraphone jazz-legend Gary Burton’s past quartets.
With Tupac Mantilla playing assorted percussion, cellist Aristedes Rivas and bassist Jorge Roeder holding down the bottom end, tenor saxophonist Ben Roseth joined Julian Lage to create intense soaring solos that flew over the rhythm and out into the audience. Lage just kept smiling as his fingers pressed on the strings pushing the band into areas of true spontaneous ingenuity.
Sometimes in the musical milieu smiles erupted among the men at their success of pushing the be-bop envelope.
At 8 years of age, Lage was the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary, “Jules At Eight” and only a few years later he was recording (and touring) with pianist Taylor Eigsti’s outfit and Nnenna Freelon’s group on two Grammy-nominated albums.
Julian Lage smiled harder and sustained a note while looking around at his sidemen ending the set in a chorus of applause. His Van Dyck appearance marked the third time Lage has appeared in the area – Skidmore College in 2008 with drummer Eric Harland’s Quartet and this past summer at the Freihofer’s jazz festival in SPAC with his own group at the gazebo stage. He dazzled them then, he dazzled us at the Van Dyck and he will continue to do so in the future wherever he stops in Nippertown.
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk