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Julian Lage wants to have a conversation with you

Shervin Lainez

When Julian Lage plays guitar, it’s hard not to get swept up in it. His relationship with the instrument is natural and contagious. Maybe that’s because it’s been with him for most of his life. When he was just 8 years old, Julian was the subject of an Academy Award-nominated documentary film called Jules at Eight. Before he entered his teens, he had already performed with Carlos Santana and jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton. While still in high school he was a faculty member of the Stanford Jazz Workshop.

Lage plays like someone in love. Despite his productive personal relationship with singer-songwriter Margaret Glaspy — who produced his forthcoming album on Blue Note, View From a Room — perhaps the deepest love affair of his life may be with the guitar itself.

In this conversation from last year, we talked about his 2021 release Squint, which Glaspy produced with Armand Hirsch — his first solo album on Blue Note, which he recorded with drummer Dave King and bassist Jorge Roeder. He told me how he traversed those murky waters of youthful exceptionalism and came out on the other side — with more sensitivity to the music, to his audience, and to himself. During the course of the conversation, Lage also described the connection between the artist and the audience and how he thinks about notes as having the weight of speech: “I want it to feel like I’m talking to you when I play.”

View From a Room will be released on Blue Note on Sept. 16; preorder here. Julian Lage is currently on tour in Europe; he appears on Saturday at the North Sea Jazz Festival, where he will also take part in a Blindfold Test with WBGO's Nate Chinen.

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Leo Sidran is a Latin Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist, producer, arranger and composer. Since 2014 he has hosted an influential podcast called The Third Story, featuring interviews with musicians, producers, songwriters and creators of all kinds.