Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 15, No.1, 2016

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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
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David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nancy Snipper
Farzana Hassan
Daniel Charchuk
Samuel Burd
Andrée Lafontaine
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Serge Gamache Emanuel Pordes
Diane Gordon
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Jazz Contributors

Tommy Emmanuel
John Stetch
Susie Arioli
Coral Egan
Diana Krall
Stacey Kent
Carol Welsman
Aldo Romano
Denzal Sinclaire
Madeleine Peyroux
Bireli Lagrene
Sonido Isleño
Provost & Lachapelle
Kevin Breit
Sophie Milman
Annie Poulain
Badi Assad
Donato & Bouchard
Ingrid Jensen
John Roney
Russell Malone
David Binney
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Mimi Fox
Voo Doo Scat
Coral Egan
Martin Taylor
Jordan Officer
Melody Gardot
Jean Vanasse
Yves Léveillé
Sylvain Provost
Louciana Souza
Patricia Barber
Jill Barber
Corrine Bailey Rae
Chet Doxas
François Bourassa
Sylvain Luc
Neil Cowley
Marianne Trudel
Florence K
Terez Montcalm
Cyrus Chestnut
Tord Gustavsen
Sarah MK
Julie Lamontagne
Vincent Gagnon
Arioli & Officer
Jean Félix Mailloux
Becky Noble
Vijay Iyer
Lionel Loueke
Tia Fuller
Cécile McLorin Salvant
Emma Frank
Shai Maestro
Christine Jensen
Vincent Rehel
Kat Edmonson
Jaga Jazzist
2010 Montreal Guitar Show (Sylvan Luc)
2008 Jazz en Rafale Festival (Montreal) - Mar. 27th - April 5th -- Tél. 514-490-9613 ext-101 (featuring David Binney)
Montreal Jazz Festival 2010







Piano Keyboard


by Robert J. Lewis

Featured artist: NELS CLINE & JULIAN LAGE


With Guitarissimo on indefinite hold, guitar recitals or concerts featuring guitar are at a premium, and – in this critic’s humble opinion – too few and far between. But with the recent (December 2015) announcement that Jacques-Andre Dupont (guitar junkie and Guitar Show organizer) has replaced Alain Simard as CEO of Spectra, the company that hosts the Montreal International Jazz Festival, there is every reason to expect more of the guitar this summer (2016) and throughout the year.

So for this year’s 2015 festival, when it was announced that Nels Cline and Julian Lage were performing, I was instantly transported to guitar heaven. I should add that the night before my appetite was wonderfully whetted by the remarkable Sylvain Luc, who was joined by Richard Galliano in a precious homage to Edith Piaf.

However rare guitar ensembles are in jazz, it took only a couple of minutes for Cline and Lage to make the case that two guitars not only lend themselves to the free play we expect from jazz, but in the hands of two masters composition and exploration can play equal roles. For their delicious Salle Gesù concert, which featured an exciting and bold repertoire, it was their highly original tone and exquisite temperament that distinguished their approach, and provided for a warm and cozy relationship with the audience.

Their meticulously crafted sound is as delicate as you’ll find coming out of the electric guitar. Sometimes the notes sounded like soft crib bells, or a pin dropped on a marble floor, or were contoured to mimic the flutter of wings on the fly. Acoustic space was effortlessly made to reveal its grace and delicacy. What both delighted and challenged the listener were the unexpected eruptions of dissonance, and brief but arresting forays into atonalism that were weaved in and out and around the more conventional melodies. We often think of atonalism as the interval of choice to convey alienation, fragmentation and despair. But in the measured hands of Cline and Lage, the atonal was made to evoke unfamiliarity and strangeness of place, but never threatening – a somewhere you might feel like staying for a while, while remaining wary and alert. It only gradually dawns on the listener that these two guitarists are anything but reserved, that however conservative is their timbre and touch, they are both explorers, creating in real time structures that defy the delicate sound on which their edifices rest. The crowd that had spontaneously gathered around the CD table after the concert spoke to the satisfactions the two guitarists produced.

Critics have accused the duo of not taking enough chances: I emphatically disagree. Their music is deceptively open-ended with no shortage of spontaneity as they trade off the lead and rhythm and/or basslines, sometimes braiding their leads into a single run or, on the ascent, running together highly complex chord sequences. They consistently blur the line between the conventional and experimental; it might sound folksy one moment and Twilight Zone the next.

That life is tenuous, fragile, is one of the signature existential leitmotifs in their music, the mood of which requires a complicity that cannot be forced, and which goes far beyond the notes. As such their concert was an unqualified lesson in respectful listening. Cline and Lage remind us that the small sound is not incompatible with the development of large ideas, that it is not necessary to assault an audience to get its attention, that respect, which is in point of fact mutual respect, travels far and wide and creates its own rites and referrals.

If there is a message or idea imbedded in their musical choices, it is that life, for all of its braggadocio, is as ephemeral as the note that is plucked and disappears in the same instant.

Guitarists supreme Nels Cline and Julian Lage invite us to take part in their dialogue with the infinite, and the conversation that ensues persuades us to stay. Their duo album, Room, is the perfect setting for that rewarding long day’s journey into the light.




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