NIR FELDER, GOLDEN AGE

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The lanky, unassuming young man in street-worn slip-ons and a hoodie, fiddled with cords and gearboxes on the small secondary stage at Rockwood Hall last November, a compact room in New York’s Bowery neighborhood on the gentrified lower East Side. He could have passed for one of the tech crew, but he was guitarist Nir Felder and when he turned on his axe and started to play, everybody in that room was transfixed. Previewing songs from his debut release Golden Age, Felder interacted with his band with the casual nonchalance that comes with friendship, and pianist Aaron Parks, drummer Nate Smith and bassist Orlando LeFleming (substituting for Matt Penman) dug into this joyous material with enthusiasm.

Felder has been a go-to sideman on many high-profile gigs, supplying superior fretwork and textures to projects by Terri Lyne Carrington, Esperanza Spalding, the singer José James and saxophonist Brian Landrus.

His debut scores on many fronts – the songs are modestly epic, performed by a band that’s locked tight with groove and invention, and combined with the leader’s awe-inspiring gifts as a composer and player, Golden Age heralds the arrival of a fresh new voice on jazz guitar. The all-originals playlist naturally reflect Felder’s influences and aspirations, from grunge-like chords and blues riffs to soaring waves of sound (“Lights”), tight harmonic rhythms and heartfelt melodies (“Bandits”). Better still is “Code,” a power ballad with a Prince-like backbeat and a precise pace -- it resonates with Felder’s distinctive chord effects that give this track its ethereal beauty. Dipping into the jazz/R&B realm, “Lover” fuses a bright groove with Parks’ intricately beautiful piano solo.

Another element Felder employs to great effect is voiceover, specifically segments of speeches from political and cultural figures. The juxtaposition is used sparingly, but winningly on “Sketch 2,” where a sample of former NY Governor Mario Cuomo’s rebuttal to then President Reagan’s “shining city on the hill” speech segues into an urgent impressionistic track that nonetheless conveys an ever-present optimism that weaves through Felder’s compositions.

When Felder played on the Rockwood Hall stage that late night, he and his Mexican Stratocaster were one voice. Felder’s body was stretched tall and loose, his face aimed to the ceiling and while the music he played was amplified, it sounded as if it radiated out from his body. It turns out that the guitar is Felder’s original instrument that he bought as a teenager, putting heavy strings on it early on (“like Stevie Ray Vaughan did”) and it’s the instrument that Felder uses on all tracks but one on Golden Age, his fearless and resplendent first recording. (10 tracks; 61 minutes)
my lousy photo of the great band at Rockwood Hall, NYC, 2013
 

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JAZZ IN SPACE: NIR FELDER, GOLDEN AGE

Saturday, February 1, 2014

NIR FELDER, GOLDEN AGE

-->
The lanky, unassuming young man in street-worn slip-ons and a hoodie, fiddled with cords and gearboxes on the small secondary stage at Rockwood Hall last November, a compact room in New York’s Bowery neighborhood on the gentrified lower East Side. He could have passed for one of the tech crew, but he was guitarist Nir Felder and when he turned on his axe and started to play, everybody in that room was transfixed. Previewing songs from his debut release Golden Age, Felder interacted with his band with the casual nonchalance that comes with friendship, and pianist Aaron Parks, drummer Nate Smith and bassist Orlando LeFleming (substituting for Matt Penman) dug into this joyous material with enthusiasm.

Felder has been a go-to sideman on many high-profile gigs, supplying superior fretwork and textures to projects by Terri Lyne Carrington, Esperanza Spalding, the singer José James and saxophonist Brian Landrus.

His debut scores on many fronts – the songs are modestly epic, performed by a band that’s locked tight with groove and invention, and combined with the leader’s awe-inspiring gifts as a composer and player, Golden Age heralds the arrival of a fresh new voice on jazz guitar. The all-originals playlist naturally reflect Felder’s influences and aspirations, from grunge-like chords and blues riffs to soaring waves of sound (“Lights”), tight harmonic rhythms and heartfelt melodies (“Bandits”). Better still is “Code,” a power ballad with a Prince-like backbeat and a precise pace -- it resonates with Felder’s distinctive chord effects that give this track its ethereal beauty. Dipping into the jazz/R&B realm, “Lover” fuses a bright groove with Parks’ intricately beautiful piano solo.

Another element Felder employs to great effect is voiceover, specifically segments of speeches from political and cultural figures. The juxtaposition is used sparingly, but winningly on “Sketch 2,” where a sample of former NY Governor Mario Cuomo’s rebuttal to then President Reagan’s “shining city on the hill” speech segues into an urgent impressionistic track that nonetheless conveys an ever-present optimism that weaves through Felder’s compositions.

When Felder played on the Rockwood Hall stage that late night, he and his Mexican Stratocaster were one voice. Felder’s body was stretched tall and loose, his face aimed to the ceiling and while the music he played was amplified, it sounded as if it radiated out from his body. It turns out that the guitar is Felder’s original instrument that he bought as a teenager, putting heavy strings on it early on (“like Stevie Ray Vaughan did”) and it’s the instrument that Felder uses on all tracks but one on Golden Age, his fearless and resplendent first recording. (10 tracks; 61 minutes)
my lousy photo of the great band at Rockwood Hall, NYC, 2013
 

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