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Music

Squint and You'll See a New Album by the Julian Lage Trio

Julian Lage Trio
courtesy of the artist
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The Julian Lage Trio: Dave King, Lage, and Jorge Roeder.

A few years ago, guitarist Julian Lage changed the personnel in his sterling trio, forging a rugged yet pliable bond with bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Dave King.

This band released a fine album, Love Hurts, on Mack Avenue in 2019; at the time, we featured a video in Take Five. Now Lage and his band mates are back with a new batch of tunes and a new label affiliation. Their album Squint will be released on Blue Note Records on June 11. Its first single, "Saint Rose," is out today in digital form.

Julian Lage - Saint Rose (Visualizer)

The song's title is an allusion to Lage's hometown: Santa Rosa, Calif. As for its relaxed backbeat groove, this is apparently a nod to Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy, who has become a songwriting advisor of sorts for Lage — and, along with album co-producers Margaret Glaspy and Armand Hirsch, an important influence behind the scenes.

There have been other, more visible influences, right on the Blue Note roster. Lage has been working lately with saxophonist, flutist and NEA Jazz Master Charles Lloyd, who just turned 83; see the boxed set 8: Kindred Spirits (Live From the Lobero) for a vivid illustration. And Nels Cline, whom the world beyond jazz knows as Wilco's lead guitarist, teamed up with Lage to release the Blue Note album Currents, Constellations.

The Nels Cline 4 - Temporarily

Squint has a roundabout creation story, rooted in pandemic disruption. Lage, Roeder and King played a week at The Village Vanguard in January 2020, honing their rapport and some new tunes in preparation for a studio session. Like so much else, that session was postponed, and Lage reconsidered some of his ideas in lockdown. The album was finally recorded in Nashville last August, roughly half a year into the pandemic and in the midst of widespread protests over racial injustice.

"After the recording didn't happen, I started reflecting on the music’s intent," Lage says in a press release. "It was clearer than ever that art and music are platforms to influence and heal and facilitate conversations. It became really important to me to capture a certain sense of emotional complexity to the music, a little fuzziness. This record sits comfortably in the unknown."

Squint will be released on June 11; preorder here.