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Paul Meyers: Paul Meyers Quartet featuring Frank Wess

Jeff Dayton-Johnson By

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This is a very smooth outing from Paul Meyers, mixing standards—both the rather ripe ("I Cover The Waterfront") and the lesser-known (Billy Strayhorn's "Snibor")—with Meyers originals as showcases for his acoustic nylon string guitar. "Smooth" should not be taken to mean "smooth jazz": there is just the right amount of edge in the musicians' interaction to keep things interesting.

Meyers' style is almost casually virtuosic, reflecting the easy skill of a session veteran whose credits span a vast stylistic breadth. His soloing alternates single-note lines with chords and tonal clusters in a manner reminiscent, both musically and emotionally, of the great Brazilian guitarists to whom Meyers has pledged his allegiance, among them Bola Sete, Toninho Horta—whose violão playing Meyers credits as an influence for his own nylon- string guitar style.

Meyers made the excellent decision to invite Frank Wess to share front-man duties on most cuts. Wess is best known for his flute playing—the instrument for which he was a frequent Down Beat poll winner during the heyday of his tenure with the Count Basie orchestra in the early 1960s—and his playing is heard to particularly good effect on Meyers' original, "Blue Lantern."

But the most interesting moments on the record arise when Wess switches to tenor saxophone, on which he's a fine, Coleman Hawkins-inspired player. Wess' solos are not just well-constructed in terms of notes on the printed page, but full of dynamic and timbral effects—breathy, garrulous, vocal. These features contrast nicely with the crystalline brightness of Meyer's nylon string playing. These pleasing contrasts are particularly evident on the up-tempo "Just One of Those Things." "Menage à Bleu," meanwhile, is—fittingly—a fairly down-and-dirty blues performance, well-suited to Wess' saxophone, but not at first blush to the classically oriented nylon string guitar. Meyers, nevertheless, pulls off a convincing blues solo.

An unexpected bonus that rounds out the set nicely: Meyers's sometimes boss, vocalist Andy Bey, sits in for a laidback "Lazy Afternoon." Meyers reengineers the song's rhythm around a Northeastern Brazilian basis, spurring him to his most nuanced playing on the record. In the meantime, Bey sounds ever more basso with the passing years, leaving his more raucous R&B style ever further in the past.

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).

Title: Paul Meyers Quartet Featuring Frank Wess | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Miles High Records

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