Guitarist Nate Najar knows what that wooden box with strings is for — to fill the void with lovely, surprising sounds. And he continues to do so on his new CD, a tribute to Charlie Byrd, BLUES FOR NIGHT PEOPLE.
I write “continues,” because I was immediately impressed with Nate and his music when he came and sat in at The Ear Inn some time ago. Ear-people know that 326 Spring Street is a hot place for guitarists: Matt Munisteri, Howard Alden, Chris Flory, James Chirillo, Julian Lage, and some other notables.
But Nate stands out as he did that Sunday night: a sweetly melodic player who didn’t let sweetness get in the way of swinging. “Delicacy” and “strength” may seem an odd combination — a writer’s contradiction designed primarily to catch the eye — but they live happily in Nate’s playing. His sound is beautiful, subtle, full of shadings — but he never is content to provide pretty aural wallpaper, the guitarist’s version of Laura Ashley for the ears.
No, his notes ring and chime; his phrases have meaning and depth on their own, and they fit into the larger compositions he creates. And “strength” is evident in several ways on this disc. In its most obvious manifestation, it comes across powerfully in the opening blues — not harsh, but not music for people who “play at” the blues. But strength, we know, is also a kind of wisdom: knowing where to take a breath, where to be still, so that the music created resonates powerfully even after the performances have ended.
Come on and hear. Here.
The CD, as you can see, is Nate’s respectful but lively tribute to another down-home poet of the guitar — where he remembers but does not imitate. It offers a variety of moods, tempos, and sounds — from lovely ballad playing to rocking Latin expressiveness to barbecue-flavored blues. Nate is accompanied by the wonderful bassist Tommy Cecil and the indispensable Chuck Redd — on vibes as well as drums. Beautifully recorded. And the CD has very plain-spoken yet elegant notes written by Nate and by Charlie’s widow, Becky. The songs are MUSIC FOR NIGHT PEOPLE (the last movement, called 4 AM FUNK) / DJANGO / DESAFINADO /SWING 59 / O PATO / A SINGLE PETAL OF A ROSE / CONCIERTO DE ARANJUEZ / HAVE YOU MET MISS JONES? / WHO CARES? / SOMEONE TO LIGHT UP MY LIFE / SI TU VOIS MA MERE / REMEMBERING CHARLIE BYRD.
It’s wise, subtle, and genuine music.
May your happiness increase.