Love comes in through the ears as well as through any other channel: the voice you hear on your phone (if you are fortunate) or the purring, from any species, that makes you smile. Louis, Lee Wiley, Bobby Hackett, Ben Webster, Bing, and many others create sounds that assure me that things are going to be all right.
Guitarist Nate Najar has some of that very same magic. His new CD isn’t “Easy Listening” (for those who remember that archaic category) but it certainly is easy to listen to, and to love. It’s both beautiful music and a homage to a time when beautiful music was a common language. The theme is French, and the title is UNDER PARIS SKIES. It isn’t released yet, so you’ll have to wait until September 7, but you can line up here. Nate says it will be available in all the old familiar places, including his site.
What distinguishes this CD from the thousands of guitar sessions, and even the thousands of sessions devoted to the music of France, is Nate’s sweet expertise. He loves translucent melodies; he has a light touch; he swings without cliche or strain, and the CD is also elegant dance music. I’ve heard him swing all by himself — he has his own rhythmic engine — but he’s also aided immeasurably by Tommy Cecil, string bass; Matthew Home, drums; and playing vibraphone on two tracks, the splendid Chuck Redd. They work together in true gracious harmony, with Nate making sure everyone gets a chance to sing out. (Hear Tommy’s lead on APRES UN REVE and know how acoustic string bass should be played.)
The songs are nicely chosen, familiar and obscure. I apologize for the lack of accents, but that may be why Miss Virby gave me a 75 in French III. LA MORT DOUCE / I WILL WAIT FOR YOU / NUAGES / LA JAVANNAISE / SOUS LE CIEL DE PARIS (Under Paris Skies) / CE PETIT CHEMIN / APRES UN REVE / SA JEUNESSE / QUE RESTE-T-IL DE NOS AMOURS? (I Wish You Love) / CHANSON DU COEUR BRISE (Song of Songs) / LA MARSELLAISE.
Some of the repertoire has, in the past, fallen into sentimentality, but Nate likes to swing just as much as he likes to increase the humidity, so I WISH YOU LOVE starts off as a proper rhapsody and then moves into a modern-Basie-rock, energized and energizing. There’s also a good deal of understated wit here: these musicians aren’t obsessive quoters (I could name names) but the rare references to other songs often made me laugh out loud.
Nate’s own playing is quietly spectacular: hear his solo exploration of SONG OF SONGS: majestic yet not melodramatic, easily mobile but never trivial. And the sound he gets out of his unamplified guitar is a gorgeous song in itself, so much like a beautifully modulated human voice.
It would be easy to pass this CD by for one more “innovative,” “cutting-edge,” or “adventurous,” which often means lengthy less-melodic excursions, but I encourage you to seek it out. We can never have too much light-hearted beauty, and Nate Najar lives right in the center of it, as this CD proves.
Nate doesn’t make it to New York that often, but he will be playing music from UNDER PARIS SKIES on October 14 at the Blue Note in New York City — a Sunday brunch, with details here. It will be a very good way to feel comfortable in the world, no matter what Monday brings.
Thank you for the beauties, Monsieur Najar.
May your happiness increase!