No one can deny Julian Lage's facility on the guitar. He can make that instrument laugh or weep or call out stridently -- or bop along. But what really made his short appearance Monday night in Confederation Park special was the originality of his group's instruments and material.
Percussionist Tupac Mantilla, for example, played his miniature drum kit with hands and thick bamboo sticks. Jorge Roeder's bass solo in "Clarity" combined bowing with a three-note plucked pattern -- followed shortly thereafter with a bluesy bass/guitar duet with Lage. The group was also supposed to include a cellist, but he got held up at the border.
Lage was a child prodigy (and is still only 21), but he has had several years experience accompanying musicians like Gary Burton. That showed in the space he left for other musicians: for example, the duet between Lage and saxophonist Ben Roseth in "Motor Minder", where circling lines on the alto sax alternated with fast, vibrating notes on the guitar -- both fast, both complicated, both intense.
With less than an hour in his set, however, Lage only gave a tease of what he and his band were capable of, and what he might be capable a few years from now.
— Alayne McGregor