Smoke Jazz and Supper Club
New York, New York
May 28, 2009
It was a rainy spring night when Scott Feiner took the stage at Smoke to present a set of music mostly taken from his second pandeiro jazz CD entitled Dois Mundos (Two Worlds, Biscoito Fino). Backing him were Freddie Bryant (guitar), Joel Frahm (saxophone) and Ugonna Okegwo (bass), the latter an eleventh-hour replacement for regular bassist Joe Martin, who had a personal emergency that made him unable to play that night.
The group opened with Feiner's title piece from the new disc, a very Brazilian-flavored number played from an American point of view (repeated listenings are apt to call to memory the second half of Joe Henderson's final disc, Double Rainbow). Frahm kicked the tune off with his soprano sax, and Bryant followed with an accomplished solo. That was followed by "Conde," another original number from the CD.
It was fascinating to note how well the tunesoriginally recorded with pianist David Feldmanmade their transition to the guitar. Bryant has a innate feel for Latin music, handling both solos and chords with great dexterity. Also noteworthy are Okegwo's chops: it was the first time he'd been playing this material, yet at certain moments he stole the show; even the musicians on stage seemed increasingly absorbed by what he was doing.
The third number was "Denisio," a Bryant composition dedicated to late bassist Dennis Irwin. Bryant began playing solo with a groove reminiscent of Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell. The piece then evolved into a very upbeat samba that took us right up to the shores of Rio. This was the audience's first opportunity to hear Feiner solo, playing during intervals between improvised moments by all the band members.
The set's stand-out moment came when Bryant picked up a twelve-string guitar and proceeded to perform in duo with Feiner (as the bandleader later noted, the instrument is not commonly used in jazz, but the combination was surprising). At a certain point, Bryant added a loop of a bass-line of sorts, and improvised solos around it, while Feiner followed with a highly intense beat. The sound was reminiscent of moda de viola, a genre from central Brazil in which two twelve- or ten-string guitarists improvise against each other.
Feiner's pandeiro jazz project is quite innovative: Feiner's pandeiro is the sole percussion instrument in the group, which is something arguably unseen before. He currently resides in Rio de Janeiro, where he plays with a band formed by local musicians. Here's hoping he comes back for more live performances Stateside soon.