"It's a very true instrument" – Julian Lage explains why he uses a 'Telecaster' for jazz

Julian Lage
(Image credit: Andy Sheppard/Redferns)

Julian Lage is one of the most inspirational sounds in the guitar world right now – a jazz player whose appeal is so undeniable he's crossed over (the rock player's jazz guy?). But his guitar of choice isn't typical jazz fare either, Jimmy Bryant notwithstanding. And when Premier Guitar's John Bohlinger visited Lage for a Rig Rundown recently he found out more about Lage's choice.

"Growing up I played a Stratocaster, my father had a Telecaster," Lage explains. "I always loved the Telecaster but I kind of fell for the myth I couldn't play one because I was a jazz player. And at some point I think I just called it into question and said, well that's not necessarily true. I started playing them in guitar stores and though someday I'm gonna do it."

I'd say the biggest reason why I fell in love with it was just the bluntness of it

Lage started to fulfil that wish with a T-style Nash, but the shift was gradual. "For one or two songs I'd play it with my band," Lage remembers. "At the time I was playing a Linda Manzer archtop and that was feeling great, and then it was three songs, and four songs. I just thought, do you know what I've just got to let go of any preconceived notions and really let myself fall in love with [the Telecaster].

"I'd say the biggest reason why I fell in love with it was just the bluntness of it. I'm relatively sparse in terms of equipment and effects, and I like an instrument that kind of just doesn't do anything unless you do something. It's a bit masochistic, but it's also quite an education. So it's a very true instrument, and all Teles possess that I think. And I think this one in particular does it best of just about any one I've played."

Lage owns a real 1954 Telecaster but that's not what he's out on the road with. Instead he's chosen a Nachocaster vintage replica made by the much admired Ignacio 'Nacho' Baños and his small team at Nacho Guitars in Valencia, Spain.

Baños wrote the acclaimed book on 1950s Blackguard Teles (The Blackguard Tele Book) and Lage has two of his guitars. "His methods of making them and his sensibilities I think are absolutely dialled," enthuses the guitarist. "The feel, the weight and the honesty I was speaking of before. It's all very apparent when you play any of his guitars."

 While Lage's other Nachocaster is more based on a Broadcaster, the instrument in the video above has a pickup made by Ron Ellis in the neck position – and while it looks like a P-90, that's just the case. It's actually an Ellisonic that also features in the guitarist's second Collings signature model. And Lage stays on that neck position.

Check out the video above for more – including why Lage views his volume control as a tone knob. 

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.