A select number of San Diego jazz fans opted to attend the June 10 performance of the Nir Felder Quartet at Dizzy’s – a shame, really, because Felder favorably represents the next wave of jazz guitar – post-Frisell, Metheny, and Rosenwinkel.
Felder’s group opened with airy open-string chords and a viscous rock beat, courtesy of drummer Jordan Person on “Lights,” an anthemic study in clear voicings and multiple textures – and no guitar solos. “Bandits” represented the template for the evening: long, episodic structures that melded chord-melody with explosive energy juxtaposed with wide arcs of dynamics – especially when the drums dialed down for pianist Frank Locrasto’s solo – a melodically effusive cascade chock full of ideas. Felder followed with an extremely loose, legato spin that featured thematic material cycling through modal and chromatic sequences.
Especially effective was the freebop groove of “Ernest/Protector,” which began as a boiling duo between guitar and drums before the throbbing bass of Noah Garabedian and Locrasto’s counterpoint needled Felder into an ecstatic burst of squiggly single-note lines and a super-melodic, almost Lyle Mays-sounding piano solo.
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“Sketch 2,” began with eerie volume swells and delayed chords before yielding to a powerhouse mandate for freak-out drum drama. The lugubrious creep of “Code,” with sparse gestures and lurching bass ideas represented a welcome change of pace, and Garabedian’s limber intro into “Lover,” gave the bassist a richly earned grab at the ring – he and Locrasto spent much of the evening dominated, sonically by the drums and guitar.
The group’s full potential became realized on “Victory,” where the relatively lower volume allowed the brilliance of the guitar/piano harmonies and the bass doubling of the melody to sparkle over the sensitive brushes of Person. There was a somber, elegant Erik Satie-like harmonic landscape happening with “Before The Tsars,” which brought out a beautifully soulful moment from Locrasto. Garabedian led off the finale, “Memorial,” with a potent mix of slippery loquacity and indigo deliberation, pulling grainy whole-notes and pliant double-stops to maximum effect.
The jazz world will be hearing much more from Felder, whose combination of chops, ideas, and concept indicate a player ready for prime-time.
Robert Bush is a freelance jazz writer who has been exploring the San Diego improvised music scene for more than 30 years.