|Nir Felder — Golden Age (2014)|
Nir Felder — Golden Age
♦ο♦ Spoken-word samples add to that chatter on a few tracks, historical context for our current Golden Age. It’s hard to say what they add, but they don’t interfere with Felder’s mesmerizing flow.
Born: Katonah, New York
Location: New York, NY
Album release: January 21, 2014
Record Label: OKeh Records/Sony Music
01 Lights 2:18
02 Bandits 7:13
03 Ernest / Protector 6:10
04 Sketch 2 5:01
05 Code 9:35
06 Memorial 5:03
07 Lover 3:55
08 Bandits II 7:16
09 Slower Machinery 6:13
10 Before the Tsars 8:19
℗ 2014 Sony Music Entertainment
♦ο♦ Nir Felder — guitars
♦ο♦ Aaron Parks — keyboards
♦ο♦ Matt Penman — bass
♦ο♦ Nate Smith — drums
♦ο♦ He started to play the guitar at the age of thirteen, graduated from Berklee Collage of Music in Boston and won the Berklee guitar department’s Jimi Hendrix Award. In New York, he hit the ground running, gigging immediately at the Jazz Club Small’s with saxophonist George Garzone and rapidly amassing credits that include sessions and performances with Greg Osby, Terri Lyne Carrington, Meshell Ndegeocello, José James, Esperanza Spalding, Jack DeJohnette, Eric Harland, and the New York City Opera. It was not long before NPR labeled him “the next big jazz guitarist.”
♦ο♦ The song’s the thing for Nir Felder. His debut album Golden Age puts his skills as a composer and songwriter at the forefront of his creative design, supported by virtuosic technique. Together with pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Nate Smith he brings his unique musical vision to life. “The album is called Golden Age, and it’s more of a question than a statement,” Nir Felder says. “It looks bad for the arts in New York City at the moment, and some people are nostalgic for the 1980s and early ’90s, when times were rough and unsafe but art and culture were flourishing. Was that a ‘golden age’? Is this one? Has there really ever been one? The question is always, according to whom? So, there is a lack of clarity about whether things are going great or they’re really bad, and the music reflects that.”
Ken Micallef | Score: ****
♦ο♦ Like Pat Metheny and Joe Satriani, Nir Felder is a storyteller first, a guitar player second. He has the rare gift wherein his melodies and infrequent solos are instantly catchy and memorable. Even at first hearing you feel you already know his music, that you can somehow complete a song’s melody not long after it begins. And though there is a theme to Golden Age, with allusions to serious historical moments expressed by spoken word samples of Malcolm X, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Jesse Jackson, Richard Nixon and Lou Gehrig, among others, the concept (are we in a new golden age?) ultimately falls a bit flat next to the album’s kinetic rhythms and rich bittersweet melodies.
♦ο♦ Throughout Golden Age, Felder’s guitar tone is middle-range and pleasant, and his guitars often sound like they could be electric or acoustic. He taps a vein of Americana that is reflective, but also forward thinking. And while he is definitely a jazz guitarist — Metheny, John Scofield, and frequent Steely Dan sideman Wayne Krantz loom large in his style — you get the impression that Felder could play in a jug band and the message, the music’s melodic content would be the same. He’s a pop stylist with jazz technique, essentially.
♦ο♦ Golden Age opens with what else — all purpose guitar strumming a la Metheny’s New Chautauqua, lifted and set fire by the spacious drumming of Dave Holland’s Nate Smith, his hyper-vescent, combustible rhythms supplying the forward motion and underlying flow that makes Felder’s music spark. Opener “Lights” pays tribute to Wes Montgomery with a subtle chordal melody spinning over an elastic funk groove. Think an alt rock version of George Benson’s “Breezin’” set aloft and flying over the Andes. ♦ο♦ Beneath the song’s frayed strumming, samples of Richard Nixon announcing “I want to tell you” morph into Malcolm X seemingly replying “our cause is just.” “It is the duty of leaders to lead,” Malcolm X continues throughout the strum-heavy track, infused with samples of President Johnson, Lou Gehrig and others. The song does make you wonder, are these men American heroes or American tragedies? A Bruce Hornsby-like piano figure fittingly adorns the song as it vamps out. “Bandit’s” gentle melody, as memorable as “Ode to Billie Joe” or a quieter Radiohead song, floats and vamps (there’s a lot of floating, vamping and high-flying on Golden Age) before bucking into an anthemic clutch of chorded guitar accents that effectively create the song’s hook. Swaying between rock styled urgency and gentle, Emily Remler like flow and ethereal swing, “Bandits” soon gives way to strings, and what sounds like seagulls. ♦ο♦ Cinematic? You bet. It’s Pat Metheny’s Bright Size Life meets Bruce Hornsby’s The Way It Is. Other highlights along Felder’s amber-waves-of-grain journey include the John Scofieldish funk and complexity of “Ernest/Protector,” the Allan Holdsworth inspired fusion of “Sketch” (with more Malcolm X samples), the pretty melody, angular chords and scattershot rhythm of “Lover,” and closer, “Before the Tsars,” a lush piano-driven track that is as eerie as it is ghostly.
♦ο♦ Golden Age fits a slim niche in the Americana catalog. Combining jazz instrumentation with sweeping melodies and a continuous dose of political commentary, Golden Age becomes equal parts easy-listening mantra, protest song shout-out, and jazz guitar shootout. A smart lad, Nir Felder means to be all things to all listeners and pulls it off, handily. Fortaken: http://audaud.com/
♦ο♦ Guitarist Nir Felder is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music who is well known among musicians. He has played with Greg Osby, Esperanza Spalding, Jack DeJohnette, and Terri Lynne Carrington, among numerous others. Golden Age is his debut as a leader, released by Sony's resurrected Okeh imprint. Felder's band here includes pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Matt Penman, and drummer Nate Smith. Felder wrote all ten tunes and produced the album. It's a loosely conceptual set that circles around the title: Did it exist? Does it? Will it ever? Are we past it? Samples of historic voices from Malcolm X, Mario Cuomo, Barbara Jordan, Elie Wiesel, Lou Gehrig, and Richard Nixon are threaded through several tunes, underscoring these open questions. ♦ο♦ Despite the heady premise, this set is actually more subtle. These pieces play to his ensemble's strengths, as well as his own. Thankfully, there is precious little blistering fever, though when it does reveal itself, it is impressive. Check the knotty "Ernest/Protector," with its striking arpeggios and swinging rhythm section amid the complexity. A smoking single-string solo and colorful chord shapes abound amid the contrapuntal interplay in "Memorial." Felder's tone contains an unmistakable rock patina: he uses the same $250 Stratocaster as when he began playing. (His first guitar idol was Stevie Ray Vaughan.) Smith's playing throughout is exceptional: check his skittery authority on "Sketch 2," the fluid grooves he deals out in "Memorial," and the double-time invention on "Slower Machinery" — perhaps the most satisfying improvisational work by the entire quartet on this date. Parks has a couple of fine showcases too. His solo on the Latin-tinged "Bandits II" once more displays his ability to thread chord voicings and ostinato to bridge gaps in styles: in this case, bolero to post-bop to Americana, the last of which is made manifest in Felder's spirited solo. The pairing of styles and solos makes for a euphoric consideration that recalls — in feel, not tone or melody — '70s Pat Metheny. Golden Age is an auspicious debut. Felder is indeed a fine guitarist, and more importantly, a jazz composer of taste and originality.
By Jon Garelick | GLOBE CORRESPONDENT | JANUARY 28, 2014
By Jack Goodstein | BLOGCRITICS.ORG | Saturday, December 21, 2013
♦ο♦ ... Focused less on the individual player's technical prowess, the ensemble aims at an aesthetic that privileges the music, the song. Whether it be the moody, almost dirge-like "Code," with its nod to "Auld Lang Syne," or the rhythmically adventurous "Memorial," it is always about the music rather than the musician. This is not to say the Felder and his crew lack virtuosity. Take for example some of the solo work on "Ernest/Protector." They can play with the best of them, but they work together to honor the music. And the totality-listen to "Bandits" and "Bandits ll" — is absolutely beautiful.
By Chris Barton | January 21, 2014, 6:00 a.m. http://www.latimes.com/
|Nir Felder — Golden Age (2014)|