Talk to any musician who deals with improvisatory music and you’ll soon discover that the studio is merely a means to get to the stage—where the real exploration happens. Last August, Julian Lage brought his working trio of bassist Scott Colley and drummer Kenney Wollesen to Nashville’s Station Inn for a set of brand-new music. Lage’s latest album, Modern Lore, was already in the can, and the trio used this show to see where they could take his new tunes. The concert was captured on video, and “Look Book” gives us a sense of the magic that transpired that night. Armed with a Nachocaster Broadcaster, built by luthier Nacho Banos, and a 1964 Fender Princeton Reverb, Lage delivered his lines with a full tone edged with just a hint of breakup. The fiery energy that bubbles up from the intro is as palpable and swinging as anything the jazz guitarist has put to tape.
The inspiration for the tune came from a few different sources, according to Lage. “There’s an Ornette Coleman album called Tomorrow Is the Question! and I wanted to write something with a similar temperament. A launchpad of sorts.” To spark creativity, Lage often gives himself this kind of assignment, and in this 7-minute video, we witness the effectiveness of his approach. For “Look Book,” Lage sought an Ornette-meets-Charles-Lloyd vibe, but he decided to write the arrangement first, then the tune, and Colley’s propulsive walking-bass solo was a part of the arrangement Lage sketched out. “I didn’t want this tune to feel like a test,” he says, “I wanted it to feel unfettered.” The venue also played a role in the band’s spirited performance. “I just love that club,” says Lage. “It reminds me of the Village Vanguard. I’m just glad that I can play for a community that I feel like I’m a part of.”