Live In Los Angeles (Mack Avenue)

Julian Lage

Released November 11, 2016

DownBeat Four-and-a-Half-Star Review




Julian Lage’s Arclight, released in April, marked an invigorating new direction for the still-young guitarist. Joined by Scott Colley on bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums (the same pair Lage had seen as a child backing Jim Hall), Lage cranked out a spirited but tightly edited set of 11 tunes, ranging from covers of obscure 1930s gems to free-jazz originals, all clocking in at between 2:09 and 4:12 in length.

On this follow-up EP, the trio stretches out on five of those same tunes, albeit by only an extra minute or so on three tracks. It opens with “Persian Rug,” an irresistible burner featuring Lage’s guitar virtuosity, Colley’s race-walking bass and Wollesen’s fleet brushes, which he swaps out for sticks as the volume ratchets up midway through. “Nocturne” fills four and a half minutes with a leisurely country vibe reminiscent of Bill Frisell, another of Lage’s heroes (and a longtime collaborator of Wollesen’s). “Activate,” written to be free but short, moves in and out of uptempo swing, and Lage monopolizes the freedom until the raucous end of this supercharged set-closer.

Tracks 2 and 4, lasting 12:57 and 10:13, respectively, are where the band really gives itself room to ramble. “I’ll Be Seeing You” begins with Lage unaccompanied, his guitar slow and pensive before gliding into the familiar melody three minutes in. The others join: Colley improvises counterpoint, the music revs up and turns free just over halfway in and Colley eventually grabs his lone solo. “Stop Go Start,” an avant-garde crowd-pleaser, opens with three minutes of adventurous, unaccompanied Wollesen. Lage jumps in and takes off, inventing flurries of notes that evolve into quoting Ornette Coleman’s “School Work” for a spell, before exiting in another flurry. Arclight was stellar work, and this EP demonstrates the group is even more exciting live.

Track Listing:

1. Persian Rug 3:20

2. I’ll Be Seeing You 12:57

3. Nocturne 4:22

4. Stop Go Start 10:12

5. Activate 4:15


Julian Lage: guitar

Scott Colley: bass

Kenny Wollesen: drums

Recorded live June 4, 2016, at Blue Whale, Los Angeles, CA


It’s a pleasure to watch someone grow from being constantly referred to as a prodigy into being a mature artist worth listening to irrespective of age. Julian Lage has been around the block already and at the end of his twenties, he’s made a solo record and duets with some other great guitarists, and now he’s hitting his stride. If Live In Los Angeles doesn’t convince you he’s the real deal, I’m not sure what you’re looking for.

It’s a companion record to his Mack Avenue debut with this trio, Arclight, and all five of its tracks are featured on the previous CD, which was a studio date. Here we have the threesome taking those pieces for an extended walk, performing in an intimate setting in L.A.—the Blue Whale.

If you’re a fan of the way that Keith Jarrett or Brad Mehldau play with standards, teasing the form mercilessly while keeping it intact, then you need to start paying attention to Lage. He’s chosen older compositions here, ones with harmonies that allow him to move around. All alone at the start of “I’ll Be Seeing You,” he’s insinuating the melody while nimbly tearing up the fingerboard, all accomplished with restraint and imagination.

There’s a little country twang on the bittersweet “Nocturne,” ultra laid-back, Wollesen and Colley absolutely perfect in their roles, feeding off the idea machine with the guitar in its hand, and handing over an ideal vibe for him to work with. Wollesen kicks off “Stop Go Start” with some Peking opera gong action and a simmering mallet stew, the Lage original showing that in addition to the more songbook-oriented outlook, the guitarist is firmly housed in the creative music continuum.

John Corbett (DownBeat)