Paul Meyers: Paul Meyers Quartet Featuring Frank Wess (2009)
This record, very simply titled, brings together two fine musicians. One is Paul Meyers, the stylish nylon-string guitarist who adorns the music of Jon Hendricks, and the legendary Frank Wess, a tenor saxophonist and flutist with perhaps the most burnished vocal styles on both instruments. This in itself, achieves a sort of Zen-like Nirvana while soaking in the exquisite exchanges between the two. Then to add the deeply moving, regal baritone of Andy Bey on "Lazy Afternoon" is like a sudden and unexpected shower of pure gold. The album is a collection of straight-ahead blues and popular standards, but each is so fresh that it feels as if they have been played for the first time.
On tenor saxophone, Wess' delicious singing-style mixes a slightly indigo, smoothly throaty tone with glorious arpeggios and a fading vibrato that characterized his playing for twelve years with one of Count Basie's finest bands. Wess continues to thrill in much the same manner matching the sparkling, resonant inflections of Meyers' nylon-stringed guitar. On flute, Wess is without peer. Here he combines a brilliant altissimo fluttering with masterful manipulation of the instrument to do his bidding. His solos capture offertories made vertically, which seem to ascend on great thermals like eagles with wings gently frozen in flight. He motions notes to move inside out and round and about, pausing for breath, only to make a new whorl in the thin air around the music.
This is a perfect foil for Meyers' mostly echoing resonance, but sometimes clipped tones. The guitarist plucks and slides across the strings with fluid grace. His choice of notes reflects old-fashioned sentimentality, but he infuses them with echoes and memories of future past. His linear measures are filled with ideas where softer emotions abound. The more he plays the fresher he sounds and here he is aided and abetted by svelte rhythm twinsthe superbly melodious Martin Wind on acoustic bass and the elegant, pulsating drummer, Tony Jefferson. Wind and Jefferson play with an understanding that borders on telepathy and when each is offered a chance to stretch, they defer to the melody with unforgettable effect.
The elegant swing and shuffle of Billy Strayhorn's "Snibor" sets things off and there is no looking back after that. The exchange between Wind and Meyers on this track is a thrill to hear as bassist's choice of notes rarely land on the root notes of the chords he chooses to play, in somewhat the same vein as Ray Brown does with such finesse. Meyers' "Blue Lantern" has a pulse that is inviting and perfect for Wess' sliding flute. The master truly shines on his own "Ménage à Bleu," reaching seemingly unreachable highs on "In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning" and George and Ira Gershwin's "Who Cares."
This is an album that crackles with delight and begs the question: What if these gentlemen get together again and again? What wonders will ensue?
Track Listing: Snibor; Blue Lantern; In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning; One For Miss D; Lazy Afternoon; Ménage à Bleu; Just One Of Those Things; My One And Only Love; Who Cares?; I Cover The Waterfront.
Personnel: Paul Meyers: acoustic nylon string guitar; Frank Wess: tenor saxophone, flute; Martin Wind: acoustic bass; Tony Jefferson: drums; Andy Bey: vocal (5).