After precious, pristine duo outings with pianist Fred Hersch and fellow guitarist Nels Cline, one-time wunderkind Julian Lage settled into a simpatico trio setting with bassist Scott Colley and drummer Kenny Wollesen on 2016’s acclaimed Arclight, which showcased the guitarist’s more assertive direction on a vintage Fender Telecaster. With Modern Lore, Lage takes things up a notch with that same trio, bearing down a little harder on his Tele without sacrificing his signature lyricism. A patient plectrist with a gift for instrumental storytelling, Lage embraces the gentle simplicity of tunes like the loping “Whatever You Say, Henry,” the country-tinged “Atlantic Limited,” and the melodious “Wordsmith,” then showcases his considerable fretboard prowess on chops-busting numbers like “The Ramble,” the uptempo swinger “Look Book,” and his edgy stab at free jazz on the Ornette Coleman-influenced “Earth Science.” This album grooves heavier than Arclight, with Wollesen supplying the requisite backbeat that fuels Lage’s rockier muse. But lovely moments like the dreamy closer “Pantheon” and the tender “Revelry” provide a link to more introspective past outings like 2009’s Sounding Point and 2011’s Gladwell.
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