Earlier in September, Julian Lage's View With A Room Tour stopped off at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, for a special set, the highlight of which saw him play an impeccable rendition of the Charlie Christian and Benny Goodman standard Seven Come Eleven on the Gibson arch-top that the late jazz guitar great helped popularised.
Lage might be one of 21st-century jazz guitar’s most candent stars, but as a keen student of musical history, the significance of playing the ES-250 was not lost on him, and the performance was captured on video for posterity, and posted to his YouTube channel.
Joined by Dave King on drums with Scott Colley on double-bass, Lage put Christian’s ES-250 through his Mike Moody Vibro Deluxe combo amp, and leaned into the dynamics on a track that arrived at a pivotal moment for jazz, when Christian, playing in Goodman’s sextet at the turn of the ‘40s, turned a new generation onto the potential of what was then often described as “amplified guitar”.
On 2 October, 1939, in New York, Christian himself played Seven Come Eleven with the Benny Goodman Sextet on that very same ES-250, a performance that was compiled in his 1972 double-album, Solo Flight.
To hear Lage play it is a delight – not least because guitars such as this should be allowed out to stretch their legs and lungs every now and again, but also seeing Lage playing a big ol' jazz box with stories and history behind it feels like a rare treat, and a change of pace from his usual complement of Collings signature 470 JL and his Fender Telecaster.
Lage said it was “an absolute honour” to play it, describing the ES-250 as “the coolest guitar ever”. He’s not wrong. Just look at that floating pre-War style tailpiece, the open-book pearl inlays on the fingerboard. And, of course, it sounds incredible.