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Julian Lage One-Stop Hub for Avant-Garde Jazz

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JULIAN LAGE, a fastidious young guitarist, waited for the applause to subside before bantering with his audience at Firehouse 12 last Friday night. He and his band were playing songs from Sounding Point (Emarcy), his brand-new debut; the next piece, he said, had to do with exploring sound in a physical space, responding to the feeling of a room. And, he added, theres really no better room than Firehouse 12.

That comment didn’t come across as ingratiating, because Mr. Lage seemed genuinely impressed. He isn’t alone: since opening four years ago Firehouse 12, a stylishly repurposed 1905 firehouse in the Ninth Square neighborhood here, has earned a reputation as the pre- eminent spot for improvised music in the region. It has also won acclaim as a state-of-the- art recording studio and for housing a record label with a focus on artists more aggressively experimental than Mr. Lage. On the whole the operation, which includes a separate bar downstairs, suggests a model of sustainable activity for a field as transparently noncommercial as avant-garde jazz.

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