Opening night of Jazz Winterlude is elegantly electrifying

Julian Lage and Jorge Roeder explore global territory; Brown and Basse swing with finesse.

Updated: 2013-01-21T01:20:23Z


Special to The Star

The first evening of the fourth edition of the Jazz Winterlude festival offered a breathtaking glimpse of the music of the future and two satisfying re-creations of the music of the past. A performance by the innovative duo of Julian Lage and Jorge Roeder at Yardley Hall was bookended by bands led by David Basse and Deborah Brown.

The exquisite presentation of guitarist Lage, 25, and bassist Roeder indicated that Lage’s almost unprecedented musical development continues unabated. As a child prodigy, Lage was the subject of “Jules at Eight,” a 1996 Oscar-nominated documentary.

Like Lee’s Summit native Pat Metheny, Lage’s career was fostered by vibraphonist Gary Burton. Metheny’s brilliant guitar work was introduced to much of the jazz world when he joined Burton’s band in the mid-1970s. Thirty years later, the California-born Lage was featured on Burton’s 2004 album, “Generations.”

The format of Friday’s appearance resembled “Beyond the Missouri Sky,” the acclaimed 1997 collaboration between Metheny and bassist Charlie Haden. Yet where Metheny and Haden favored the pastoral sound of middle America, Lage and Roeder convey a global perspective. Their music combines jazz, blues and bluegrass with the Parisian sound of Django Reinhardt, African elements and concepts associated with Roeder’s native South America.

The adventurous music created by Lage and Roeder is decidedly elegant. Technical mastery and an imaginative hybrid of styles, rather than volume, fuel the duo’s inventiveness.

A piece dedicated to jazz guitar giant Jim Hall began gently but morphed into a sprightly romp that foreshadowed an entirely new conception of the blues. Astonishingly extreme dynamics and unlikely rhythmic detours were featured on “233 Butler.” Lage’s liquid lines bounced atop Roeder’s melodic rumble during a rapturous reading of Sam Rivers’ “Beatrice.”

Although her band included forward-thinking saxophonist Matt Otto, Deborah Brown hewed to the sophisticated swing associated with Ella Fitzgerald in her headlining performance. Her immaculate scatting on “625” and her pristine emoting on “All Too Soon,” the bittersweet title track of her 2012 album, demonstrated why Brown is Kansas City’s premier jazz vocalist.

Backed by a fine sextet, David Basse opened the evening with a set of rollicking jump blues and jovial swing in the Kansas City tradition.

Lage is well on his way to becoming one of the leading figures in jazz. By showcasing Lage and dozens of Kansas City’s most prominent musicians, Jazz Winterlude has become the area’s most significant festival dedicated exclusively to jazz.

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