Ernest / Protector
Before the Tsars
After growing up in the Hudson River Valley and attending Berklee (where he nabbed the guitar department’s Jimi Hendrix Award), rising-star guitarist Nir Felder immersed himself in the NYC jazz scene, playing and recording with bandleaders Terri Lyne Carrington, Greg Osby, Esperanza Spalding, and many others for the last eight years. Now he finally leads an impressive quartet (pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Matt Penman, and drummer Nate Smith) through a set of original tunes on Golden Age. Setting a tone that this won't be your typical jazz-guitar affair, the album opens with the band playing a buoyant rock melody alongside snippets from various speeches (“Sketch 2” and a reprise at the end also do this). The group maintain a lyrical bent throughout, with lengthy solos eschewed in favor of short group segments that shift organically from one idea to the next. The ebb and flow of “Lover” illustrates this particularly well, as does “Bandits.” Those hoping for the guitarist to do something flashier or more “jazz-like” can turn to “Ernest/Protector,” but the slow, drifting “Code” shouldn’t be overlooked either.