Nicolas Meier ‘From Istanbul to Ceuta with a smile’ (MGP) 3/5

Swiss guitarist Nicolas Meier continues his musical explorations and here they are heavily influenced by Mediterranean landscapes. Wheareas on his previous release he was featured in a pared down line-up with a fellow guitarist in a live setting, he is on this new recording surrounded by a larger ensemble that makes up an octet and includes Gilad Atzmon on reeds and Asaf Sirkis on drums among its alumni. The album is a a summation of recent travels in Spain and Turkey as well as other musical inspirations such as Argentine tango. The ambience of daily life in a major Mediterranean city is lovingly conveyed on ‘From Istanbul’, the first of a three part suite, with some beautiful soprano soloing from Atzmon who is ideally suited to both Mediterranean and Middle Eastern hues. Flamenco influences from Paco de Lucia are in evidence on ‘Opening’ with cello and violin accompanying while another part of the suite, ‘To Ceuta’, has a strong Middle Eastern flavour and Meier stretches out in this context with some Methenyesque licks. Ideally this writer would like to hear a whole album of the tango-flavoured numbers which are excellent in their own right, but need to be heard separately from the rest. In places the music can be a little too intricate for its own good and the overall sound might be tighter if it were devoid of layers of strings. A starker, stripped down would better suit the project, though in fairness this is achieved in some parts between guitar and percussion in particular. This said, Nicolas Meier’s music is never less than deeply evocative. Tim Stenhouse

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