Bassists bringing two worlds together
ASPEN Christian McBride plays a variety of styles – straightahead jazz, electric funk – but bluegrass, he says, he plays only “in my dreams.” Edgar Meyer specializes in his own set of genres – classical, bluegrass – a focus that has kept him away from jazz and electric music.The two would seem, then, to exist worlds apart. But they are united by their common instrument, and beyond that, by their mutual adoration for what each other has done with the bass.”What Edgar has accomplished on his instrument is surpassed by no one. Duplicated by no one,” McBride said.
“If I could play like that, I would” play jazz, Meyer said, pointing to McBride. “It’s not one of my options. Not for lack of trying.”The two are also united in their ties to Aspen. McBride is the artistic director of Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ JAS Academy Summer Sessions, which currently has five top-level student combos training with masters like McBride and members of his band, including saxophonist Ron Blake and drummer Terreon Gully. Meyer, a former student at the Aspen Music Festival and School, is spending a large chunk of his summer here, and has made several chamber music appearances at the festival.Thursday, the two are united further. They perform together for the first time in a recital at Harris Concert Hall, at 8:30 p.m., co-presented by the Aspen Music Festival and Jazz Aspen. McBride and Meyer had crossed paths over the years, but Sunday was the first time they ever exchanged musical licks. The program includes arrangements for such standards as “Stella by Starlight” and “My Funny Valentine,” Miles Davis’ “Solar,” and some original compositions. Much of the material was played together for the first time in a rehearsal last night at the Music Festival’s Castle Creek campus, attended by a small group that included Music Festival students, JAS Academy participants, McBride’s bandmates, and Connie Heard, Meyer’s wife and a violinist who has appeared at this summer’s Music Festival.
The two bassists agreed that the ground they meet on has little to do with the material or the genres they play. It’s more about a desire to create a friendship and engage in a dialogue.”For the music that we’re playing, that translates in a reasonable way – if we’re not hooking up personally, it’s not happening,” Meyer said.That dialogue began long before this week, and even before the two first met, sometime since 2000. Listening to McBride’s early, straightahead jazz recordings, Meyer became a fan: “I was just glad someone came out with his facility,” said Meyer, “and it was one small piece of what he does. It wasn’t even the main part of what he does.”
In the early ’90s, McBride was turned onto Meyer by another jazz bass legend, Ray Brown. Brown told him that Meyer was on a par with the great jazz bassists – but that he also had another element to his playing, because of his bluegrass influence. Brown then showed McBride a video that included Meyer. “And he was dead-on,” McBride said.Crossing paths in Aspen allows them to bring the conversation to the next level.”I’ve been listening to Christian for years on record,” said Meyer. “I want to get a little closer to it. I can’t play the bass like that. But I want to listen to it.”Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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