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Sunday, May 4, 2014

CD Review: Nir Felder: “Golden Age”

Nir Felder’s debut full-length CD, Golden Age, features original compositions by this incredibly talented jazz guitarist. This album comes at just the right time for me. I’ve been really preoccupied with various things, and the music on these tracks pulled me out of those concerns. I sometimes love when music feels like a journey that you and the musicians are on together, and that is often the case with the tracks on this release.

These are instrumental tracks, though a couple of them (“Lights” and “Sketch 2”) feature political speeches beneath the music. Besides Nir Felder on guitar, this CD features excellent work from Aaron Parks on piano, Matt Penman on bass and Nate Smith on drums.

The first track, “Lights,” opens with “Thank you very much,” an interesting way to open an album, then comes on like a good indie-rock tune. Under that, we hear bits of political speeches: “I want to tell you, our cause is just.” Some of the spoken bits are easier to hear than others. The last line is “We are a people, I tell you, that is just beginning its high adventure on this continent,” at which point the song fades out.

“Bandits” is such an interesting composition, with moments of quiet, delicate beauty, as well as bright, boisterous bursts. It features a nice, somewhat pretty section on piano, with the bass and drums offsetting that feel with the sense of some impending urgency. And at two moments in the tune there is what sounds like the cry of whales.

Nir Felder’s inspiration for “Ernest/Protector” seems almost equal parts Wes Montgomery and Trey Anastasio. The guitar feels almost like it’s talking to us, at times trying to get across something important. This one has an interesting pace, and plays with our emotions a bit, taking us on a ride once we hop on. This is one of my favorite tracks.

"Sketch 2" opens with a political speech: “Ten days ago the president...” The speech is about how the president said this country is a shining city on a hill, but that the country is really divided in two, and how a lot of people need help. The music comes in almost immediately, and kind of riffs on what is being said, like jamming to it. There is a brief but good drum solo.

"Memorial" features a very cool, intense jam, but also with well-defined themes. There is some excellent drumming on this track, as well as, of course, some intricate and interesting stuff on guitar from Nir Felder. This track really grabs hold of me. It's a fantastic tune.

I love the sweet, mellower groove of "Bandits II." And though it's mellower, there is still some great stuff on drums. But what I especially love is the piano work during Aaron Parks’ lead section. The song has a positive, bright, optimistic vibe that I appreciate. Nir Felder’s guitar is sometimes gently singing to us, soothing us, other times rousing us, as if out of a sleep to taste of life and its wonders. If forced to pick my favorite track, this would probably be it.

The CD's closing track, "Before The Tsars," opens with some sweet work on piano. Then the drums come in, almost like a clock that is ticking away the time, fast. The piano seems to convince the clock to slow just a bit, and we get into a good groove. Approximately three minutes in, the piano and bass find this delicious, almost kind of sly vibe.

There is a hidden track at the end. After approximately thirty seconds of silence, the last track fades back in, going back to the album's opening theme, with political speeches playing under it.

CD Track List
  1. Lights
  2. Bandits
  3. Ernest/Protector
  4. Sketch 2
  5. Code
  6. Memorial
  7. Lover
  8. Bandits II
  9. Slower Machinery
  10. Before The Tsars

Golden Age was released on January 21, 2014 on Okeh Records.

(Note: I also posted this review on Michael Doherty's Music Log.)

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