Strapped with a classical guitar, Nate Najar’s orchestral approach to playing jazz is lush in tonality and verve, creating melodies and funky tunes that hum from the strings and give the instrument a voice of its own. His latest album, Blues for Night People, is giving the world its swing back as Najar, teamed with bassist Tommy Cecil and drummer Chuck Redd, channeled and played in remembrance of the late Charlie Byrd. Najar, influenced by the stylings of Byrd, the indomitable Django Reinhardt and the seminal John Leslie “Wes” Montgomery, is a throwback to those bopping days of the 1940s, '50s and '60s and one of the only classical guitarists on the scene today in a jazz trio—a setup many claim went extinct with Byrd’s death.
As a composer, producer and classical guitarist, Najar merges the past with the present, dipping his musical taste into traditional jazz, blues and gospel and on to Latin-infused Brazilian samba and funk for a sound that’s truly one of a kind. On June 29, the Nate Najar Trio (Najar on guitar, Alejandro Arenas on bass and Mark Feinman on drums) will be coming to the Arts Garage for the acclaimed Jazz Project series. Here, we reprise an interview with Najar from 2009, talking jazz and inspiration, while the video clip below has the trio jamming to the Byrd song “Charlotte’s Fancy.”
- Tickets start at $25.
- For more information or to purchase tickets, visit artsgarage.org.
- And as always, Arts Garage is BYOW (Bring Your Own Whatever).
What does jazz mean to you?
To me, jazz is a feeling; that’s the bottom line. It has to have a swing to it. It could be traditional swing or something with a funky beat, [but] the most important thing about jazz is the feeling in the music—and of course a good melody, and the way an instrumentalist will play with and embellish and improvise around the melody.
Why the classical guitar?
To me, there is a disconnect with the electric guitar. I do enjoy it quite a bit, but there is a very personal connection with the classical guitar when I am playing it. I can feel the instrument vibrating in my hands.
Who would you like to jam with?
Duke Ellington, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Prince—I would love to play with Prince. He is an absolute genius.