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Nicolas Meier


by Ian Mann

May 08, 2006


An ambitious and enjoyable album with sparkling playing throughout.

Swiss born guitarist Meier now lives in London and his latest release entitled “Orient” features leading players on the British jazz scene.

Originally influenced by heavy metal and fusion Meier studied jazz in the US at Boston’s famous Berklee College, but in recent years he has developed a passion for the music of the Middle East encouraged by his Turkish wife Songul. Israeli born drummer Asaf Sirkis has also been a big influence in this area and introduced Meier to saxophonist Gilad Atzmon.

Sirkis plays throughout “Orient” and is partnered in the rhythm section by bassist Tom Mason. Meier shares front line duties with saxophonists Dave O’Higgins, Rob Lavers and Atzmon, the latter also doubling on clarinet. They do not play as a section but appear individually with Lavers playing on two tracks and O’Higgins and Atzmon on three each.

All eight tracks are Meier originals. The fast and furious “Adiguzel” gets things off to a flying start with Atzmon’s clarinet swooping and soaring, ducking and diving over Sirkis’ dynamic drumming. Meier contributes a Metheny-esque guitar solo and also appears on the Turkish saz. Marvellous stuff.

The following “Libra” is more reflective with lyrical tenor sax from the criminally underrated Dave O’Higgins, surely one of this country’s finest players.

Atzmon returns to the front line for the atmospheric “Last Rose”. His slow evocative clarinet lines and Sirkis’ bandir give the piece an authentic Middle Eastern feel underlined by Meier again using the saz.

“Alone features more fine tenor playing from O’Higgins and Meier appears on synthesised guitar. As a whole though the track is undistinguished and is the weakest cut so far. “Season” features Atzmon’s keening, probing soprano. Although not as obviously “eastern” as his previous contributions he still has a sound very much his own.

“Guidance” includes both Middle Eastern and Flamenco elements and some dazzling guitar from Meier. There is some spectacular drumming from Sirkis and O’Higgins proves that he is just as adept on the soprano as he is on the tenor.

Rob Lavers takes over the saxophone chair for “Trust” and acquits himself well enough. However Meier’s guitar synth solo is too much of a carbon copy of Pat Metheny for comfort.

The short and sweet “What’s Next” a duet between Lavers and Meier closes the album.

This is an ambitious and enjoyable album with sparkling playing from all concerned. The tracks incorporating Middle Eastern elements are the most successful things on the record with “Adiguzel” and “Last Rose” the strongest cuts closely followed by “Guidance”. “Libra” is nearly as fine and generally speaking the album does tend to fire it’s best shots first.

Despite using a distinctive fretless acoustic guitar designed for him by the Godin company Meier still sounds a lot like Pat Metheny. On the occasions when he copies Metheny too slavishly there is a tendency for the music to become too smooth. He needs to stick to the exotic and distinctive!

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