It’s been 10 years since NPR dubbed Nir Felder “The Next Big Jazz Guitarist.” In…
It’s been 10 years since NPR dubbed Nir Felder “The Next Big Jazz Guitarist.” In that time, he released his estimable debut as a leader, Golden Age, in 2014, and now delivers his sophomore effort, II.
Six years is a considerable gap between albums, which, judging by II, gave Felder ample time to fill a large satchel with compositional, sonic and studio ideas. The result is an album that seems over-thought and is ultimately overwrought. Most of the tunes are stuffed with contrasting melodic motifs, jarring changes, odd-meter rhythms, spacey synth interludes and overdubbed textural sequences. Felder, 37, layers on the added instrumental parts himself.
A prime example is the closer, “War Theory.” The piece starts promisingly, with a set of majestic chords, but then gives way to a series of busy, sprinkling arpeggios. The song alternates between these two modes for a spell before introducing a crunchy rock riff, followed by a thick synth wash and Jimmy Macbride’s taut, odd-meter drumming. And that’s just the first third of a nearly nine-minute composition. “Big Heat” begins as a pumping shuffle à la Jeff Beck, disassembles into a maelstrom of awkward feints and jabs, then evolves into a bop sprint. (He should’ve stuck with the shuffle.)
There are exceptions. “Coronation” is a slow-burn strut built on a seductive chord melody that nods to Hendrix. Felder’s jazz-toned, rock-leaning solos are well paced and deliver a few goosebump crescendos. Matt Penman’s acoustic bass solo is a welcome touch. The opener, “The Longest Star” — although it owes a bit too much to early Pat Metheny — is warmly melodic and succinct at just under three minutes. Felder’s instrumental prowess is evident throughout, but the deluge of ideas often obscures his playing and prevents it from finding a consistent flow. He would have done well to spread the solo spotlight around more. II feels like an ambitious project that got out of hand. — Eric SniderPhoto credit Justin Bettman