Review: Nicolas Meier - From Istanbul To Ceuta With A Smile
From Istanbul To Ceuta With A Smile
|Album:||From Istanbul To Ceuta With A Smile|
|Date of Release:||2013/02|
|Label:||MGP Records (UK)|
|Country of Release:||UK|
|Sub-Genre/s:||Contemporary, World Jazz|
|Date of Review:||2012/11/10|
From Istanbul To Ceuta With A Smile
To be released in February 2013 on the MGP label, Nicolas Meier's From Istanbul To Ceuta With A Smile, more than three years after the previous Journey, marks a distinct departure from previous Nicolas Meier/Meier Group releases.
In the intervening years, Meier has evolved tremendously, he has moved on and grown. Gone is the strong emphasis on Turkish melodies, although they are still there of course but mostly far more subtly so. In come more of his flamenco influence, usually heard mainly on his trio projects, and a far more heavy emphasis on the jazz aspect.
The core band is still all there, with Meier, much more to the fore than say on Journey, on his usual acoustic nylon and steel string guitars, glissentar, and baglama, Gilad Atzmon on soprano sax and clarinet, Pat Bettison on bass and harmonica, and Asaf Sirkis on drums. But Atzmon takes a far less prominent role than previously, with his Turkish clarinet more or less replaced with standard clarinet this time, and the band is supplemented by another veritable stellar cast of Bernard Gregor-Smith (formerly of the legendary Lindsay String Quartet) on cello, Lizzie Ball (leader of Nigel Kennedy's Orchestra of Life) on violin, James Pearson (Ronnie Scotts House Band) and Demi Garcia (Alec Dankworth, Meier's acoustic trio) on percussion.
Not all musicians play at the same time or even on all tracks, thus sensibly and delicately avoiding over-kill. Ensemble playing and soloing are phenomenal. Meier himself stands out with his superb, fluid improvs. Atzmon, where you hear him, is on top form, too, as one would expect. Also especially noteworthy again is Bettison's superb harmonica, and short bursts of duets with Atzmon. Sirkis is, well, Sirkis - perfection itself, sensitivity and subtlety personified, his palette matching Garcia's delicately where both are heard together, exuberant at other times - his solo on The Lightness could make your heart stop with its pyrotechnics, or his duet, nay, duel!, with Pearson on To Ceuta. Garcia himself adds tremendously to the flamenco colours especially, also with subtlety and sensitivity and a fine cajon. The strings of the illustrious Gregor-Smith and Ms. Ball fit in supremely where they are deployed, perfectly at home with the jazz environment, with excellent solos. Pearson's ivories are flawless, and innovative as ever. His solo on To Ceuta is nothing less than breath-taking.
Different From Istanbul To Ceuta With A Smile certainly is from its predecessors, but not so as you would not still recognise the continuity. The difference is not revolutionary, but evolutionary, not one of 'chalk and cheese' but rather, different chalks. Above all, it is still beautiful music that is clearly identifiable as Meier's. The added stellar musicians add to it, and are clearly not merely there for added 'colour.'
This is intelligent, organic Turkish-meets-Flamenco-meets-jazz fusion, where the jazz does not become secondary. Meier also again clearly demonstrates why he is indubitably still the leading younger guitar talent on the British scene.
As consistent as one has every right to take for granted from Meier and associates, From Istanbul To Ceuta With A Smile is a riveting album that will not let go. Brilliant as it is exquisite. Hauntingly beautiful.
Go for the CD rather than digital download. The atmospheric art work of the Digipak from paintings by Songul Yilmaz-Meier makes this infinitely preferable and worthwhile in itself.
Nicolas Meier's From Istanbul To Ceuta With A Smile is a definite must have album in the coming year, for any kind of jazz aficionado and beyond. The album should be available from January 2013.
Part I: From Istanbul To Ceuta With A Smile
Credits:Nicolas Meier - acoustic nylon and steel string guitars, glissentar, baglama
Gilad Atzmon - soprano sax, clarinet
Pat Bettison - bass and harmonica
Bernard Gregor-Smith - cello
Demi Garcia - percussion
James Pearson - piano
Asaf Sirkis - drums
Lizzie Ball - violin
From Istanbul To Ceuta With A Smile can be purchased from:
Jazz CDs UK
HMV, most general CD stores and other online sources
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