New sounds from close to home
Before he moved to Boston, the prodigiously talented California-raised guitarist Julian Lage grew up in the heart of wine country. “Gladwell,’’ his second recording as a bandleader, is a brilliantly unassuming concept album that sketches an idyllic imaginary town, with each track detailing a particular location or situation. It may not be a case of ‘‘write what you know,’’ but the album could easily serve as the soundtrack for a late afternoon ramble around some forgotten corner of Sonoma County. Featuring Lage’s working band with Brooklyn saxophonist Dan Blake, Venezuelan-born Boston Philharmonic cellist Aristides Rivas, Peruvian bassist Jorge Roeder, and Colombian percussionist Tupac Mantilla, “Gladwell’’ elaborates on the singular pan-American chamber jazz approach he introduced on his Grammy-nominated debut, 2009’s “Sounding Point.’’ More than a nice place to visit, “Gladwell’’ sounds like a beatific getaway, with plenty of quiet spaces for introspection. Even at its most frantic, like the minimalist excursion “Listening Walk,’’ Lage’s music maintains a carefully calibrated sense of equilibrium. For dancing, “Gladwell’’ offers Blake’s “However,’’ a joyous reel-like stomp set to a West African groove. The town has exquisite taste in singer-songwriters, with Lage’s teasing melody “Margaret’’ dedicated to Margaret Glaspy. The languorous carnival theme “Cocoon’’ clocks in under three minutes, ending at its most enticing, like almost half of the album’s 12 tracks. Most of the brief tunes are solo guitar pieces that Lage created with overdubbing, conversations with himself that feel like dreamy responses to his gentle version of the folk standard “Freight Train.’’ With its constantly shifting moods, transparent textures, and unexpected references, “Gladwell’’ rewards repeated listening; it’s a destination that sounds like nothing else on the map.
Julian Lage performs at Passim on Saturday at 7 and 10 p.m. and Sunday at 8 p.m. 617-492-7679, www.clubpassim.org