Nicolas Meier: Journey (2010)
Swiss-born, UK-based guitarist Nicolas Meier dedicates Journey to his wife Songul, for sharing "this beautiful life journey" with him. Thematically, the eight tunes can readily be viewed as representing such a journeybut it is equally successful in evoking a single day's walk through a beautiful and mysterious landscape, with Meier's band members as fellow travelers.
Meier's production achieves a fine sound quality, enabling all of the instruments to show their individual voices, while his playing is uniformly excellent across the eight self-composed tunes ("Sunrise" and "Sunset" are co-written with Songul). He has a fluid and precise touch, whether playing slow and delicate lines on the glissentaran 11-string, fretless, instrument inspired by the guitar and the oudduring "Promenade in the Lantern Garden" or fast and driving single note solos on "Silent Lands" or "Marble Dance." His approach is undoubtedly influenced by Pat Metheny and John McLaughlin as Meier acknowledges, but the additional influence of Turkish folk and pop tunes lends his playing a distinctiveness that ensures he is no mere copyist.
Gilad Atzmon, one of the finest instrumentalists around, adds a touch of genuine adventure and aggression to the music whether he is playing sax or clarinet. His solo on "Summit" is a fine example of his emotive and exciting playing. Atzmon's long-time playing partner Asaf Sirkis is not to be outdone, and follows on with his own driving percussion solo to bring the tune to a close.
Pat Bettison's harmonica playing is another key feature of this album. At first, the instrument may seem somewhat out of place on a recording that is so heavily influenced by Eastern themes and styles, but in fact its addition works beautifully. On "Promenade in the Lantern Garden" Bettison's harmonica takes a central role, while on "Sunset" Bettison trades lines with Atzmon's clarinet before playing a brief and plaintive phrase that leads on to Meier's lovely closing solo.
Journey is a distinctive albumeven the packaging, featuring the art of Songul Meier, is a treat. Each musician adds their own unique perspective to Meier's writing and playing to create an original and engaging work.
Track Listing: Sunrise; Journey; Mountain Baba; Silent Lands; Summit; Promenade in the Lantern Garden; Marble Dance; Sunset.
Personnel: Nicolas Meier: guitar, glissentar, baglama; Gilad Atzmon: clarinet, soprano sax, alto sax; Pat Bettison: bass, harmonica; Jose Reinoso: piano; Asaf Sirkis: drums.