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Julian Lage - The Layers (Blue Note)

16 March 2023

Serving as a sort of adjunct release to last year’s forward step View With a Room, Julian Lage’s The Layers features songs recorded during the same sessions with the same musicians: bassist Joerge Roeder, drummer Dave King, and guest guitarist Bill Frisell. At first blush, it’s not entirely clear why these songs needed to be left off the parent LP. Indeed, opening cut “Everything Helps” features this band at its height, with King and Roeder sensitively supporting the way Frisell and Lage interweave their distinctive styles around Lage’s exceptional melody. It could have been an easy highlight of View. “Missing Voices” again features the full band, with Lage and Frisell adding a dreamy, effects-driven coda. But “Double Southpaw” spotlights Lage on acoustic guitar accompanied only by an energetic Roeder, “This World” puts Lage and Frisell on the back porch for a lovely acoustic guitar duet, and the title track brings the rhythm section back in to support that same acoustic chemistry. “Mantra,” meanwhile, takes the band on a languid tour around the perimeter of the tune – a feat of exploratory jazz that might not have fit in the orchestral universe of View. Clearly, these songs’ omission from the prior album depended on direction and narrative consistency rather than quality. Thankfully The Layers puts these songs together so they get the hearing they deserve.