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The Transcendent Musical Intimacy of Bill Frisell & Julian Lage at Royce Hall

Bill Frisell and Julian Lage at Royce Hall (Photograph by Reed Hutchinson and CAP UCLA)

Presented by UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance, two American guitarists and composers share a technical precision and creative flair with a spellbound audience.

By John Lavitt

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 12-08-19

On December 5, 2019, at Royce Hall on the UCLA Campus, guitar virtuosos Bill Frisell and Julian Lage illuminate the stage with a performance that felt both intimate and transcendent. Indeed, the audience sat spellbound as the two men shared their talent and intense love of music with each other. Beyond entertaining a sold-out house, their joy in having the opportunity to play on stage together is so obvious. After all, almost nothing is as wonderful as watching two artists celebrate each other on stage as they duel back and forth, playing legendary pieces of music 

Bill Frisell at Royce Hall (Photograph by Reed Hutchinson and CAP UCLA)

When it comes to the history of cultural offerings by UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance (CAP UCLA), Bill Frisell is a perfect fit with the model. With a musical career spanning more than 40 years, Bill Frisell has contributed to more than 300 recordings, including 50 solo albums. Loving the guitar’s expression in a variety of genres, the virtuoso has explored the boundaries and played jazz, pop, country, and rock. With a distinctive improvisational kick, he pushes boundaries with a smile. When you see Bill Frisell on stage, he looks like a sage of sound celebrating his gifts.

Julian Lage at Royce Hall (Photograph by Reed Hutchinson and CAP UCLA)

Indeed, the musical erudition of Bill Frisell grooves perfectly Julian Lage, a child prodigy who was the subject of the 1996 short documentary film Jules at Eight. Having already contributed over thirty recordings as a leader and a sideman, Julian Lage continues to be at the cutting edge of his generation. When it comes to finding a precursor to his virtuosity, Bill Frisell is an ideal choice in terms of both output and diversity. 

Both immensely talented, Bill Frisell is sixty-eight years old, and Julian Lage is thirty-one years old. Thus, as the two men sit facing each other on stage, there is a personal interaction and artistic back and forth that feels almost archetypal. Whether you choose father-son, mentor-mentee, teacher-student, or sage-disciple, the interaction between the two men on stage is a mixture of both learning and sharing, dueling and pushing, and celebrating and appreciating. As they watch each other during various solos, there is the beauty of two artists bringing out the best in each other. 

The Intimate Connection Between Bill Frisell and Julian Lage (Photograph by Reed Hutchinson and CAP UCLA)

Once again, CAP UCLA helps to raise the level of cultural offerings available in Los Angeles County. Although the CAP UCLA photographer Reed Hutchinson took lovely pictures of the two performers, he failed to capture the backdrop of the night. It looked like two humongous pairs of angel wings hanging above the two performers. It brought forth the idea that artists like Bill Frisell and Julian Lage are like angels taking a break from their heavenly duties. For a while, they hang up their wings and allow God’s voice to sing through their fingers as they play their guitars.