Interview and story by J Hunter
People change careers all the time, and not just because of the economy – although that’s the primary reason these days. It’s different with musicians, though. Sure, a player may pick up another instrument over the years – last I heard, sax wizard Joe Lovano’s picked up either 10 or 12 – but the new addition is usually related to his or her primary instrument; musicians don’t just say, “Y’know, I just got fired as a guitarist. I think I’ll try being a drummer now.”
The thing is, that’s kinda-sorta what happened to Scott Feiner, who made a pretty decent living as a jazz guitarist back in the ’90s. The New York City native wasn’t even playing guitar professionally in 1999 when he discovered the pandeiro – a Brazilian hand drum that’s essentially the unofficial instrument of that nation. Instantly entranced by the pandeiro’s singular sound, Feiner brought it back to New York, determined to learn how to play it. Part of that involved hooking up with Brazilian musicians and learning from them, which resulted in Feiner moving to Rio de Janeiro in 2001. (He moved back to the states a few months ago.)
What was supposed to be a hobby turned into a wonderfully unique form of expression Feiner calls “Pandeiro Jazz,” something I discovered in 2010 on Feiner’s truly sultry Zoho release Accents. An acoustic date featuring guitarist Freddie Bryant, saxman Joel Frahm and bassist Joe Martin, Accents had a devilish mix of intimacy and attitude that approached both jazz and Latin forms in a way I’d never experienced, taking classics like Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” and Mal Waldron’s “Soul Eyes” to places they’ve never been before. While this music was a new discovery for me, Accents was Feiner’s third Pandeiro Jazz release in five years.