Julian Lage feels his music career is a ‘constant investigation’ | ParkRecord.com

Julian Lage feels his music career is a ‘constant investigation’

Guitarist will perform with Punch Brothers on Tuesday

Grammy Award-nominated jazz guitarist Julian Lage will perform with the Punch Brothers -- featuring Chris Thile, Chris Eldridge, Paul Kowert, Noam Pikelny and Gabe Witcher -- and I'm With Her, a group that includes Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O'Donnivan, at Deer Valley on Tuesday.
(Justin Camerer)

Julian Lage is looking forward to his performance with the Punch Brothers and I’m With Her at Deer Valley on Tuesday.

The Grammy-nominated jazz guitarist said the evening’s format is not set in stone, so the audience will just have to come and see what unfolds.

“What we’ve done so far is a combination of things,” Lage said during a phone call to Charlottesville, Virginia. “It’s a little mystery, and that’s the beauty of us coming to town.

“While the people in the audience won’t know what’s going to happen until it does, they do know we’ll perform our own stuff and maybe do some collaborations. But surprise is part of the act.”

Lage, who is known for his solo work and the music he performs with the Julian Lage Trio, created a bond with Punch Brother guitarist Chris “Critter” Eldridge in 2011.

“I was pursuing [Punch Brothers founder] Chris Thile to be on the first record that I would record under my own name,” Lage said. “The deal was that we would meet at a Punch Brother’s show in Boston.”

While waiting for Thile, Lage and Eldridge decided to kill the time by playing some music.

“While we did that, there was a definite sense of ‘Wow. This feels great,’ and we knew we should do more of it,” Lage said. “The whole encounter was only 15 minutes or so, but it was enough to make an impression.”

In 2014, Lage and Eldridge released their first full-length duo album “Avalon.” Earlier this year, they released their follow-up, “Mount Royal.”

“We talked about doing this for years, and eventually we committed to scheduling dates to write, record and eventually tour,” Lage said about “Mount Royal.” “It was a triumph of logistics that continued to evolved to what we’re doing today.”

In addition to his work with Eldridge, Lage has released duo albums with jazz pianist Fred Hersch and Wilco guitarist Nels Cline.

“Writing songs with Chris or with anyone else I feel it is a privilege of having another voice, another brain, another heart,” Lage said. “There’s a perspective that’s offered that you don’t have when you’re alone.”

Lage enjoys what he calls an “unexpected contribution” during these collaborations.

“I may bring Chris a song that originated with me or with the Julian Lage Trio, and then he’ll listen to it, and it will become ours, because it will get better and become different than what it would have been,” Lage said. “And then there are also times when you find out you will keep something for yourself because it doesn’t get any better.”

Lage, a child prodigy, says his draw to music was “highly personal.”

“My father started playing guitar around the same time I did, and music was a thing that my dad and I could share,” he said. “As I got deeper into it, it started to expand and become a more personalized adventure.”

Lage sought out teachers and different styles.

“That led me to composition and performance,” he said.

Throughout his career, Lage, who received a Grammy Nomination for his 2009 album “Sounding Point,” has performed with an array of other artists including vibraphonist Gary Burton, guitarist Jim Hall, mandolinist David Grisman, banjoist Bela Fleck and saxophonist Charles Lloyd.

“In the presence of those people, it’s hard not to recalibrate your own vision or goal,” Lage said. “It’s not just playing music to stay afloat. It’s about not wasting your time. You need to take advantage of the opportunity to be creative and take risks and fail or succeed.

“I feel a responsibility to show up, and I’m lucky that I can show up, and all the while I ask myself if I’m coasting or resting on my skills. It’s a constant investigation that is pretty holistic and wide reaching.”

Park City Institute will present American Acoustic, a concert featuring the Punch Brothers — featuring Chris Thile, Chris Eldridge, Paul Kowert, Noam Pikelny and Gabe Witcher; I’m With Her — comprised of Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donnivan; and Julian Lage, at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 15, at Deer Valley’s Snow Park Amphitheater. General admission tickets are $44. For information, visit http://www.bigstarsbrightnightsconcerts.org.