Following his Grammy-nominated 2009 debut Sounding Point, virtuoso guitarist Julian Lage returns with the evocative and finely wrought Gladwell — the second effort by his offbeat, eclectic group with cellist Aristides Rivas, percussionist Tupac Mantilla, bassist Jorge Roeder and saxophonist Dan Blake.
The album unfolds according to a fanciful and story-driven plan, as Lage explains: “We began playing with the idea of creating a story we could use as a guiding light in our writing process.... The result was the development of an imaginary and forgotten town known as Gladwell.... As a metaphor, Gladwell presented us with a clear architecture, to compose songs that evoke feelings of people and places we hold dear.”
Sweeping, colorful and thrillingly executed, the album opens with “233 Butler,” named for the Brooklyn street address of vintage instrument shop, Musurgia. Here and throughout, Lage showcases his group’s highly developed rapport and varied, refreshing approach to orchestration, with originals pieces that bring to life the fictional sights and sounds of Gladwell: the train station (“Listening Walk”), the church (“Cocoon,” featuring Blake on melodica — channeling sounds that could be likened to the artsy streets of Paris), the bazaar (“Iowa Taken”). “Some songs specifically identify with particular parts of the town,” writes Lage, “while other pieces simply fit into the overall concept and musical direction. The intention of the music is to encourage the listener, at every turn, to take a step towards the unknown....”