Lage Lund: All that jazz
Norwegian guitarist Lage Lund plays, composes, & leads in New York City
Jazz is one of America’s greatest art forms. So many of its songs are integral to the Great American Songbook, substantiating its importance and appeal.
The exact moment of jazz’s inception is debated, but it is considered by most to have been born about 120 years ago. Like other forms of music, it did not remain stagnant but has grown into other branches and genres, including Dixieland, Big Band, Swing, Bebop and Improv, and it continues to evolve in the present day.
In New York, jazz was so popular that 52nd Street became known as Swing Street. This occurred in 1933, when Swing Street moved from its former uptown location of 133rd St., the end of Prohibition being the catalyst. Decades later, my mother took me there as a child to hear the top musicians there. I am grateful, as the rhythms and tunes are still deep within me,
In the 1940s, about two dozen jazz clubs grooved in the 52nd Street area. Today, you can still hear jazz on 52nd Street, but the pickings are slim. And, of course, jazz was not limited to this area. The West Village also had a large concentration of jazz clubs.
Some of these jazz clubs still exist, including Arthur’s Tavern (opened 1937), The Village Vanguard (opened 1935 for folk music, with jazz beginning in 1957), and the Blue Note, which opened much later in 1981. All continue to offer top-notch performers.
According to their website, “The Blue Note opened its first international location in Tokyo, Japan, in 1988. Since then we have expanded further in Japan to Osaka, Fukuoka, and Nagoya. Blue Note inducted its first European club to the family, March 2003 in Milan, Italy.” And the jazz club is not stopping there, offering franchising opportunities throughout the world.
While jazz’s popularity is not as it once was, as said in the immortal words heard in the film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it maintains “I’m not dead.” In fact, the music’s popularity has a much further reach, far beyond the clubs of New Orleans or Manhattan. Its allure has spread throughout the world.
Today, it is wonderful to learn about young musicians taking up their horns, drums, and strings to pursue this art form, especially those who have been inspired outside the United States. One such talent is Lage Lund, who lives in New York by way of Norway. You can learn about the man and his music in the interview that follows.
Victoria Hofmo: Can you speak a little about your early days?
Lage Lund: I was born in Bergen, grew up in Skien, and moved to United States in 1997 to study at Berklee and Juilliard after going to a performing arts high school.
VH: When did you get interested in music?
LL: I’ve always loved music but started being serious about playing it when I was about 12 or 13.
VH: Why jazz? Was there a specific musician or song that inspired you?
LL: It was a gradual thing. My dad had an extensive record collection and some friends introduced me to jazz through Pat Metheny mainly. Then I started checking out Coltrane, Miles, Monk, etc. as well as Branford Marsalis, Kenny Garrett, etc.
VH: Why have you choose to stay in the United States?
LL: I wanted to go to New York, as it is the center of jazz. I felt at home here and then got married, had kids, etc.
VH: I see that you have created both a trio and a quartet. Very ambitious. What does each offer?
LL: It’s very common to have several groups in jazz. The trio is a bit more open, sonically.
VH: Do you compose your own music? If so, how does this process differ from playing and or performing?
LL: Yes. Playing and performing happen in real time, with no chances to go back and redo or edit, unlike composing, where you can keep going over the same sections a hundred times until you get it right.
VH: I see that you have made tutorial videos. Why did you feel that was important?
LL: I’m very active as a clinician and teacher and have developed certain ways of approaching common challenges and problems for developing musicians.
VH: What’s been the hardest challenge in being a jazz musician?
LL: Balancing work, travel, family, growth, stability, etc.
VH: What has been the greatest moment in your career to date?
LL: Every time I write a new piece.
VH: Can you talk about upcoming projects?
LL: This fall I’ll be presenting a commissioned piece loosely based on the writings of Kurt Vonnegut, tours with my trio and Melissa Aldana’s quartet, and a new record with Kurt Elling & the OWL Trio.
Lage Lund has also had an impact on the West Coast and was part of the Ballard Jazz Festival this past spring, organized by Matt Jorgensen. I asked Jorgensen why he felt it was important to include Lund.
“Lage Lund was recommended to me by guitarist Peter Bernstein. Our jazz festival has a Nordic-themed component to it. Our Mainstage Concert is held in the National Nordic Museum, so it was a great fit for the festival to bring such a wonderful guitarist to Seattle.”
When I went on to ask how he would describe Lund’s music, he described Lage and his music as “modern jazz with a hint of humor.”
Lund has caught the eye of the best jazz critics, receiving accolades and recognition. He is a regular in the “Rising star–Guitar” category in the Downbeat Critic’s Poll, and has been hailed by Pat Metheny as a favorite young guitarist. Russell Malone, one of the judges who awarded Lund top prize in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, described him as “all music and all soul.”
To experience Lage Lund, you can hear and purchase his recordings at his website: www.lagelund.com. If you wish to see him perform live, he frequently plays in the New York area. He recently received a fellowship from The Jazz Gallery, where he had two gigs in the beginning of September. Being in such high demand, the gigs keep pouring in.
If I haven’t yet convinced you to hear him perform or check out his music, perhaps these words from Kurt Rosen Winkel will convince you: “Of the younger cats, Lage is THE one. He’s a wonderful player. Scary actually!”
Visit Lage Lund’s ofificial website at www.lagelund.com.
Victoria Hofmo was born, raised, and still lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, the historical heart of Norwegian New York. She is 3/4 Scandinavian: 1/2 Norwegian and 1/4 Danish/Swedish. Self-employed, she runs an out-of-school-time program that articulates learning through the arts. Hofmo is an advocate for arts and culture, education, and the preservation of the built and natural environment of her hometown, with a love for most things Scandinavian.
This article originally appeared in the October 4, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.