To be released on MGP Records (UK) in November this year, Pete Roth's Meridian is this young guitar talent's debut album.
Roth is joined in a quartet by guitar wizard Nicolas Meier, who also produced, bassist Dave Suttle and drummer Alun Harries. A fine ensemble that should grow together very well.
The material on Meridian consists of six Roth originals, a further two co-penned with Nicolas Meier, and one Meier original. Roth has based his compositions around miniature stories, annotated in the sleeve notes, a concept that works quite well for the sensitive listener.
There is sometimes a general feel of Miles Davis' blue period about Meridian, with some latin tinges, and there are also occasional touches of and references to Lennon/McCartney in the compositions. All in all, Meridian is a gentle kind of album, very laid back, easy, full of light, and very relaxing. This is a very soft kind of jazz, but pleasantly so. There is a slight sign of tension and a more sombre mood in the title track with an almost menacing ostinato bass. Tension, if not menace, again tries to surface in the closer, Moodyville. The soloing, like the compositions, is fine and easy, veering towards hard bob, with no flashy displays of technique over musicality. Meier is at his most subtle, never trying to upstage the relative newcomer and emerging talent Roth.
There is a "hidden" bonus track, an all-electric version of the abovementioned Moodyville. Although slightly more up-beat and up-tempo, this somehow works better for me, having more of the tension of the story behind it. (In said story, for "high maintenance" girlfriend read highly neurotic, if like me you don't care for "political correctness" and fashionability.)
Returning to the original closer for a moment, this, along with the opening track, suffers from a few minor glitches on my CD, though nothing too serious and certainly not distracting enough for me to request another copy. These things happen surprisingly often in my experience but usually only affect a few copies in any given production run. If this ever happens to you, you'll certainly get your copy exchanged without problem.
The covers of this album are illustrated with the superb paintings of the supremely gifted Songül Meier. The front cover is not only wonderfully atmospheric but has a very photographic quality to it, especially at the small scale of a CD cover.
Overall, Meridian is not only a very pleasant and enjoyable album full of charm and wit, but also a completely consistent one. Pete Roth has come up with a very fine debut album, and he's a talent to keep your eye - and ear - on. The UK scene scene is and always has been blessed with more than its fair share of outstanding guitar talent. I, for one, would be very surprised if Roth did not rise to its top ranks.
Pete Roth's Meridian should have a place in any good modern jazz guitar collection, or for that matter any modern guitar collection of any kind.
NB - Re: the glitches mentioned above, when Pete read this he immediately - and, in my opinion, quite unnecessarily - sent me another CD, bless him, this time perfect. (I could just have "cleaned up" those glitches and burnt a new copy instead.)
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