Julian Lage – Speak to Me (ENG review)

Blue Note - Street Date March 1 2024
Julian Lage – Speak to Me (ENG review)

Julian Lage is a surprising composer and guitarist. In the opening of this album, one seamlessly transitions from intentions inspired by flamenco to a jazz-infused blues, with delightful touches of humor along the way. Invariably, over the past few years, the Blue Note label seems to be giving wings to its artists, to the extent that journalists and radio programmers, much like with albums from Mack Avenue, delight even before discovering the cover of a new album. That was the case here, a simple black and white portrait of Julian Lage, giving no hint of the content within. Clearly, Julian Lage is devoted to telling us stories through his music; it’s a music of tales, dialogue, perhaps even of novels. The guitarist states: “Throughout my life, I’ve always been drawn to music that has a narrative quality,” explaining that he sees his recent compositions as less of a departure and more of an extension of the originals from previous albums, notably his first album, “Squint,” on Blue Note in 2021. “I believe there’s a sort of connective tissue that music has, and that’s important, and it’s fun to cultivate.”
The musical language on this album speaks so directly to the listener that one could have named it “Speak to You,” as each person will find a bit of their musical universe within it, those cultural elements that shape an individual throughout their life. “Speak To Me” showcases the guitarist and composer in various contexts, including solo acoustic, duos, with his usual trio consisting of bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Dave King, and a larger ensemble with keyboards (by Kris Davis and Patrick Warren) and woodwinds (Levon Henry). This is Lage’s fourth effort for Blue Note and is part of a torrent of creative activity that includes his participation in Charles Lloyd’s Trio of Trios project and recordings with Terri Lynn Carrington, John Zorn, and Cautious Clay.
From start to finish, we are plunged into highly diverse musical worlds on this album, some even occasionally reminiscent of cinematic soundtracks, whether intentional or not, the effect is guaranteed, and at no moment can this album be found dull. Between amusing passages, sometimes poetic, sometimes dramatic, sometimes joyful, it’s even difficult to say if this album leans towards a particular audience, because as I mentioned, this album speaks to everyone. “Speak To Me” was recorded quickly, over a few days. Instead of pre-production, Lage and Henry maintained a constant electronic flow of discussion on tone, temperament, and mission for months before the sessions. When Lage was frustrated that a song he had written didn’t fit with the others, he would send a demo to Joe. “I would tell him, ‘I’m about to toss this one. Does it fit into the narrative we’re trying to create with the other pieces?’ Several times, I told him I didn’t think a song was appropriate. And he would tell me it was – he saved a few songs that way.”
This is probably what makes this album as rich as it is exciting, immediately becoming indispensable from the first notes, and we are certainly here on Julian Lage’s best album, one of sincerity.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, February 28th 2024


To buy this album

Julian Lage’s website


The track listing for Speak To Me is as follows:

  1. Hymnal (Lage)
  2. Northern Shuffle (Lage)
  3. Omission (Lage)
  4. Serenade (Lage)
  5. Myself Around You (Lage)
  6. South Mountain (Lage)
  7. Speak To Me (Lage)
  8. Two And One (Lage)
  9. Vanishing Points (Lage)
  10. Tiburon (Lage)
  11. As It Were (Lage)
  12. 76 (Lage)
  13. Nothing Happens Here (Lage)

Produced by Joe Henry
Recorded by Mark Goodell at Brooklyn Recording, Brooklyn, NY
Assistant Engineer: Samuel Wahl
Mixed by Mark Goodell at Joe’s Garage, Brooklyn, NY
Mastered by Kim Rosen at Knack Mastering, Ringwood, NJ