Nels Cline & Julian Lage Gesu, Montreal QC, July 1
Published Jul 02, 2015The Jedi and Padawan? More like Revenge of the Sith, when Anakin and Obi-Wan are pretty evenly matched, although no limbs were chopped off at the end of this show, nor was anyone left for dead. Nels the elder and Julian the younger brought their ROOM collaboration to life for this session at possibly the greatest acoustic venue the festival has to offer. Both are superb technicians and chameleons, willing to divide up the pyrotechnics equally, but able to join together to create freakishly complex statements in unison.
Drawing from jazz, classical, folk and country music, the duo showcased a variety of compositions. With Cline on electric hollow body and Lage on acoustic they would often exchange parts back and forth to build a larger song statement, such as in the opener "Blues Too." This song was dedicated to legendary jazz guitarist Jim Hall, whose dry-toned virtuosity was a big influence throughout — if you'd come to see Cline's effect-laden pyrotechnics, they took the night off.
This is not to say there wasn't an amazing range of sounds, but they were produced organically: another favourite technique was picking sharply to produce bright harmonics, and doing so to create constellations of guitar resonance, which was a highlight of "Whispers From Eve." They would also thrum with their guitars, gently and quickly vibrating their fingers over their fret boards to create a sonic thicket of struck strings.
Another point of reference was the original chamber-jazz maestro, Jimmy Giuffre, whom they covered at one point. The set climaxed with the medley of "Freesia" and "The Bond," which saw Lage practically jumping out of his seated position to make his point, the most physically energetic moment from either of them during the evening. This was a very successful matchup: very cerebral and easy to nerd out with, but with a variety of subtle emotions that engaged all.