[Dixielandjazz] Double Bass Player FINALLY gets respect

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Wed Mar 31 10:25:57 PST 2004

Not necessarily OKOM, but strong parallels. He has a CD coming out in
April with banjoist Bela Fleck. For all the Double Bassists on the List.

Pat Cooke, are you listening? ;-)

Steve Barbone

March 29, 2004 - NY Times


Double Duty for a Double Bassist


      Edgar Meyer is a famous double-bass soloist. That description
alone is enough to set him apart from the crowd because no other
double-bass soloist comes immediately to mind. But Mr. Meyer is no mere
novelty act. He has won a handful of Grammys, and in 2002 he was awarded
the MacArthur Foundation's so-called genius grant. He has recorded
everything from Bach to bluegrass, working with luminaries from Joshua
Bell to the Emerson Quartet.

He is also a serious composer. On Saturday night he performed the New
York premiere of his concerto for double bass with the chamber orchestra
Orpheus at Carnegie Hall, drawing a healthy audience and a storm of
excited applause.

Mr. Meyer's classical credentials are impeccable. But pundits in the
classical establishment sometimes dismiss him as a lightweight because
Mr. Meyer embodies that entity so despised by classical purists, the
crossover artist. Among his greatest successes are "Appalachian
Journey," the hit CD with Yo-Yo Ma and Mark O'Connor, and his
collaboration with the banjo player Bela Fleck. (The two have a CD
scheduled for release on April 27.)

Crossover, however, is not necessarily synonymous with cheap
commercialism. If ever a player came by his musical heritage honestly,
it is Mr. Meyer, who was born in Nashville and has been playing
bluegrass as well as classical all his life. For him, combining musical
genres — and, incidentally, broadening the
classical audience — is simply a form of personal expression.

Which his delightful concerto, written in 1993, abundantly demonstrates.
The impression it gives is of a lot of instruments having fun, with the
soloist accomplishing prodigious feats along the way. With its palpable
physicality, the bass seemed more Mr. Meyer's partner than his tool,
supporting him, for instance, as he leaned over it in a sweaty embrace
to reach high notes not usually explored by bassists. The instrument
also resembled Mr. Meyer in its stocky diffidence; for all its size, its
tone is so quiet that Mr. Meyer routinely uses amplification in his
solos, perhaps sacrificing large sound for agility. The orchestra
followed the soloist's lead, taking up phrases and doing orchestral
things to them: exploring lovely classically colored melodies in the
first movement or tearing into music with the sound of bluegrass in the
final one.

The conductorless ensemble did yeoman work, not only in the concerto but
also in the entire, nicely chosen program, which effectively celebrated
the wholesome subtleties of American music. A highlight was Walter
Piston's 1941 "Sinfonietta"; the orchestra did justice to its bracing,
brilliant orchestration. Also on the program were Ives's "Three Places
in New England," of which the second movement was especially vivid, and
Copland's "Appalachian Spring."

These pieces brought across the underlying message that the American
music scene has always been inhabited by mavericks seeking to
incorporate popular elements into their music. Mr. Meyer is not only a
legitimate heir to this tradition but also a great energizing factor to
the field. His versatility should be
celebrated, not dismissed.

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