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Music Review: Paul Meyers Quartet Featuring Frank Wess – S/T

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With his latest recording, Paul Meyers and his quartet have created a straightforward bit of jazz that is undemanding and smooth. Frank Wess is along for the ride on flute and tenor saxophone. His presence adds texture and cool to Meyers’ beautifully brilliant nylon string guitar.

Meyers’ record is again couched in the sense of security that drove his superb World on a String. His quartet, balanced out by Martin Wind’s acoustic bass and Tony Jefferson’s drums, is just as comfortable as the guitarist and their command of varying time signatures and musical varieties is excellent. The feat of their performance is made all the more special by the reality that they’d never played together as a group prior to going into the studio to record this selection.

The album rolls through some standards, drawing in frequent collaborator and vocalist Andy Bey on “Lazy Afternoon” to help pull some extra consistency out of Meyers’ Brazilian mood.

It really is the combination of Meyers and Wess that drives this album, however. The impeccable meshing of Meyers’ deliberate, capable guitar with Wess’ bold, assertive flute and sax sets these pieces up for lots of compelling banter. The two performers play magnificently off of one another, engaging the listener in the very real and very engaging conversation of jazz.

“Blue Lantern” is a terrific example of this record’s ability to transmit their dialogue. The piece is a little extended blues jam, almost, but Wess and Meyers give it more oomph thanks to a bit of interplay involving guitar and flute. They trade choruses elegantly.

One of the things that really captivated me about Meyers’ playing when I first heard it on World on a String was his use of rhythm as he plays guitar. The same sense of timing and pace is present on this record, too, and tracks like “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” enable him to wrap his strings around a comfortable bossa nova with ease.

Cuts like “Just One of Those Things” benefit from Meyers’ inventiveness, while the Billie Holiday standard “I Cover the Waterfront” builds tension and sass organically.

There’s a reason Paul Meyers is one of the most in-demand players in modern jazz. His command of his beautiful nylon string guitar is astounding and his ability to compose for a group he’s never played for before makes him one of the most adventurous, unique and composed arrangers I’ve had the pleasure of listening to in quite some time. This record solidifies the fact that Meyers is in a class all his own.

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