fb-pixel Skip to main content
MUSIC REVIEW

Julian Lage Trio stretches out at Berklee Performance Center

The Julian Lage Trio — Lage (left), bassist Jorge Roeder, and drummer Dave King — perform at the Berklee Performance Center.Robert Torres

Having recently returned to touring, the stellar and still newish Julian Lage Trio performed a Celebrity Series of Boston concert at the Berklee Performance Center on Friday that showed off both their freewheeling virtuosity and Lage’s ever-expanding prowess as a composer.

The music that guitar wizard Lage, bassist Jorge Roeder, and drummer Dave King played emphasized music drawn primarily from their exquisite June release, “Squint,” which was recorded during the long miserable months that COVID rendered in-person concerts impossible.

They opened, however, with a familiar favorite from Lage’s back catalog: “Ryland,” which first appeared on his 2015 solo-guitar album, “World’s Fair,” and then again the next year on “Arclight,” recorded with his previous trio. The all-star singer-songwriter trio I’m With Her (Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’Donovan, Sara Watkins) subsequently added lyrics and put it on their 2018 release “See You Around” as “Ryland (Under the Apple Tree).”

Advertisement



Lage’s trio came onstage dressed casually in jeans and button-down shirts and went right to work, positioned closely together as they dug into the tune’s lilting, country-folkish melody. They stretched out that slow, simple melody, revealing its capacious possibilities for improvisation and shifting dynamics in the hands of elite musicians.

Julian Lage and bassist Jorge Roeder.Robert Torres

The trio continued doing likewise with eight songs from “Squint,” fleshing out the shorter versions on the album into something grander and more in-the-moment. Next up was “Saint Rose,” an especially personal one for Lage, named for his hometown, Santa Rosa, Calif., a place particularly hard hit by the West Coast wildfires of recent years. “Boo’s Blues” followed, its cool jazz vibe inspired by sideman stalwarts of decades past such as Wilbur Ware and Billy Higgins.

Roeder provided an extended intro to “Familiar Flower,” Lage’s tribute to Charles Lloyd and the freest, most boisterous song of both the album and the set. Lage himself played an unaccompanied intro to Johnny Mercer’s “Emily,” the most balladic piece of the night, providing proof of an observation Roeder once made that a dissertation could be written just on Lage’s remarkably one-off intros.

Advertisement



“Day and Age,” another standout composition from Lage’s solo-guitar album, made it onto “Squint” and into Friday’s set, to great effect. King’s turn to introduce a song with a drum solo came on “Twilight Surfer,” a joyously high-energy piece shot through with hints of rockabilly and surf music.

The musicians pushed each other to be at their sharpest throughout the concert, their frequent shared smiles indicating how much fun they were having in doing so despite the brisk, businesslike pace maintained as they moved from song to song.

The set proper ended with “Quiet Like a Fuse,” and the trio came back out with hardly a pause to play their version of the Roy Orbison hit “Crying” as an encore. They had a long late-night commute back to New York, where they would be performing the next night.

Bill Beuttler can be reached at bill@billbeuttler.com.

JULIAN LAGE TRIO

Presented by Celebrity Series of Boston

At Berklee Performance Center, Friday