Can a jazz guitarist grow up idolizing Stevie Ray Vaughan? That may be a question for the purists in considering “Golden Age,” the debut album from Nir Felder, who took up guitar at age 13 and still plays the $250 Stratocaster he bought with the blues-rock legend in mind.
Potential future covers of Kenny Burrell’s “Chitlins Con Carne” aside, Felder is after more subtle, yet no less electric pleasures than his idol with a swift, lyrical flow sharpened in stints backing Greg Osby, Jack DeJohnette and Esperanza Spalding.
Mixed with snippets of political speeches, the album is bookended by “Lights,” which boasts a sparkling melody catchy enough to support an as yet unwritten John Mayer hit (not by any means a bad thing). The equally lyrical “Bandits” features a lovely turn from pianist Aaron Parks, while “Memorial” and “Slower Machinery” venture into tangled corners that recall the jazzier tributaries of ‘90s post-rock.
The fret-burning “Ernest/Protector” churns with a swift, pointillist precision, while “Sketch 2” returns to the vocal samples by the likes of Malcolm X and Mario Cuomo that marked the album’s opener with bright chords and a skittering backdrop by drummer Nate Smith. The samples point to a theme of questioning whether our time lives up to the record’s title, but Felder’s music still shines brightly on its own.
Twitter: @chrisbartonCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times