This year's Spoleto Festival USA Wachovia Jazz Series won't go out with a bang.
It'll be more like a sunset.
And from what's being said these days about guitarist Julian Lage, the last act this time around in the storied series on June 11-12 should be a sunset resplendent in colorful sound, no fury.
As is his wont, producer Michael Grofsorean was looking around last year for performers to consider for this and future seasons.
"After the Punch Brothers concert last year I asked them to write in my notebook the people they liked," he said in a recent interview. "Chris Thile wrote Julian's name. He had performed on his CD." Later on, Grofsorean said, he found a solo version by Lage of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile."
"It has a blend of ease, musicality and freedom I hadn't seen in a young American musician," he said.
"I just love the freshness, no baggage dragging around. He's just being Julian Lage. Share with people who you are. Don't worry about who someone thinks you're supposed to be."
Lage, 21 and from the San Francisco area, works with a quintet these days but will perform in duet with bassist Jorge Roeder in this, his festival debut.
He said of his band, "Our music is based out of the jazz tradition in the sense that it is largely based on improvisation, both freely and over forms. It is also inspired by acoustic chamber groups, such as string quartets or a bluegrass quintet. And additionally, I would say the musical content draws heavily from classical composition and folk music from North America, South America and Europe."
Those elements should be at play at the Simons Center for the Arts Recital Hall with Roeder.
As an individual artist, Lage draws on all kinds of sources.
"I grew up listening to a lot of blues guitar, players like T Bone Walker and Stevie Ray Vaughan; and later delved deeply into the world of Jim Hall, Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt and Wes Montgomery," he said. "More recently, I've been in love with the master guitar players in the bluegrass and folk music scene including Tony Rice, Bryan Sutton, Norman Blake, and, of course, Doc Watson."
He said his major influences include Wayne Shorter, Jim Hall, Bjork, Igor Stravinsky and Bela Fleck. "I know it's a wide range of players and composers but to me they all share a similar quality of passion and devotion to progressing the music further and I draw tremendous inspiration from all of them."
Lage was a featured performer with violinist Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio in March at the highly acclaimed Savannah Music Festival.
SMF Artistic Director Rob Gibson said, "I didn't hear Julian until he was 16 years old and I felt like I was late to the party. He already possessed the sound of an 'old soul,' which when combined with his virtuosity and willingness to play in every style, made him seem way beyond his years.
"He is very serious about his work. He loves his job and he makes everyone around him feel better in the process. His performances with Mark O'Connor at our festival this year were nothing short of spellbinding."
Gibson offered some insight into Lage he learned at his festival. "When Mark's bassist wasn't allowed to bring his instrument on the flight, and Julian and Mark improvised the first set playing solos and duets, it was as if Julian had been waiting for the occasion. Artists like Julian reassure me that the future of music will be golden for a long time to come."
The Wachovia series sunset should be golden.