Julian Lage: The Layers review – otherworldly jazz guitar

(Blue Note)
The American guitarist’s sparse, largely acoustic companion piece to last year’s acclaimed View With a Room is another captivating creation

A childhood prodigy who played the Grammys at age 12, Julian Lage has evolved into the most admired jazz guitarist of his generation (he’s now 35). This third album for Blue Note is drawn from the same sessions as last year’s feted View With a Room, again featuring his regular sidekicks, bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Dave King, with veteran guitarist Bill Frisell as special guest. Once again produced by Margaret Glaspy (a singer-songwriter who is also Lage’s wife), the album is a companion piece to View, or, as Lage has it, “a prequel, it has all the musical seeds that grew into View but it has a heartbeat of its own”.

While possessing the same entrancing quality as its predecessor, The Layers is still sparser, with few of the Americana flavours that the much-travelled Frisell previously helped bring, and with half of its six tracks delivered on acoustic guitar. Lage is a masterful player, alternating careful, detailed lines with bursts of dexterous improvisation, and Roeder in particular proves a splendid foil, not least on the title track. Frisell, a fellow fretboard technician, brings intricate harmonic touches to the otherworldly Missing Voices. Like View, The Layers proves a captivating creation, but at under 30 minutes seems a little frugal by comparison.

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