A few months ago, I stumbled into the Casbah’s Atari Lounge, where a four-piece band was crushing it. The audience was all jaw-dropped at the tightly packed, pummeling virtuosity working hard before them. The band was the Fire Eaters, which has since changed its name to the Soul Fires.
I sat down with drummer Jake Najor and keyboardist Tim Felten at Tim’s Normal Heights home recording studio, the Kitchen. In a way, the band is the next generation in a rich local history of soul and acid jazz. “As far as how we fit into this, Jake has played with both Robert Walter and Karl Denson, and Jake’s brother Zak was an original founding member of the Greyboy Allstars. So, there’s some lineage here with Jake.” The band started in 2009, when they backed Ikah Love during his El Dorado residency. “That was the catalyst that got this band going. We moved on to El Camino and ended up parting ways with Ikah and doing our own stuff,” says Najor.
They cut their teeth playing standards in the genre and got tight through constant gigging. “The goal is to write more originals. Opening it up to different influences. That soul-jazz music is very prevalent in what we do, but we do want to move it forward,” says Najor.
Soul Fires — armed with vintage equipment, warm tones, soulful arrangements, and chops — plays regularly at Bar Pink, a new home for San Diego’s jazz soundtrack.