Julian Lage’s excursions in acoustic jazz guitar continue with a hypnotic “adapted drone piece” titled This World

Julian Lage, onstage at the Love Supreme Jazz Festival 2022
(Image credit: Andy Sheppard/Redferns)

Julian Lage has released a new single titled This World. The track is taken from his forthcoming album, The Layers, which is released via Blue Note on 17th March, and it finds Lage exploring different textures and sounds on acoustic guitar.

The Layers was announced last month, with Lage describing it as a companion piece to his 2022 album, A View With A Room. If the latter works the electricity in Lage’s trio and their collaboration with the great Bill Frisell, all present and in the moment, The Layers sounds as though it is taking a step back and exploring the dynamic between the players from a remove, offering a different perspective on some of jazz’s most exciting artists. As Lage says, The Layers “has a heartbeat all of its own”.

That is evident on a track such as this. We might ask ourselves if this is really jazz, or at least jazz as how it might strictly be defined; This World is a hypnotic composition that seems to slyly traffic in a folk vibe, or classical, two guitars not so much in communication with one another as they are in cahoots, building an atmosphere together.

As Lage explained on his Instagram page, This World was adapted from a drone arrangement that he had put together for the trio to perform with Frisell.

“The idea was to state the melody and then have Bill soar on top of the groove as it steadily built more intensely, always remaining tethered to the E drone,’ he wrote. “After rehearsals, it seemed clear that it made more sense to go the other direction - more intimate, just two acoustic guitars approaching the song more gently and sparsely. I think this piece found its home in this more resonant realm.”

It’s a remarkable piece of music, typical of the radicalism in Lage’s playing and his imagination; you never quite know where he is going to take a piece. That sense of a drone underpinning the acoustic pas de deux gives This World a sylvan mood, of a seasonal magic. How appropriate that he should release this in the spring.

The album was produced by Margaret Glaspy – Lage’s wife and regular collaborator. Mark Goodell recorded it, with Armand Hirsch credited as additional production.

The Layers is available to preorder and is released on 17 March via Blue Note.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.