Peter Oxley, Nicolas Meier ‘Travels to the West’ (MPG) 4/5

Guitar duets and trios are a relatively rare occurrence in the world of jazz and one immediately thinks of the seminal ‘One night in San Francisco’ that John McLaughlin, Al DiMeola and Paco de Lucia recorded back in 1981 as a fine example of what can be achieved. It is all the more welcome, then, to hear a new guitar duet on the scene, though individually both musicians will be familiar to those in the know. Recorded live on tour in November 2011, Swiss guitarist Nicolas Meier and fellow guitar maestro Peter Oxley present an evening’s worth of music with a distinct Latin flavour that takes in the music of Chick Corea, Pat Metheny and Milton Nascimento with three original compositions apiece between the co-leaders. A gorgeous rendition of Corea’s ‘Spain’ remains faithful to the original with a brief introduction leading straight into some intricate interplay while Nascimento’s ‘Vera Cruz’ is an ideal vehicle for the duo in which to excel. Metheny’s ‘Travels’ title track has long been a favourite of quality music lovers and the duo do this piece justice with an expansive interpretation that is in keeping with the album’s overall theme of musical journeys as does the appropriately named ‘Breeze’ which does exactly what is says on the proverbial tin. Of the originals, ‘Lodder leapin” stands out as a fine dialogue between the two guitarists with presumably the title being a homage of sorts to the bop era. The sheer joy of performing together comes shining through on this number. Eastern and possibly Indian flavours are conjured up on Meier’s composition ‘Yemin’ which develops into an increasingly fast-paced number with Meier taking the lead and Oxley offering up some excellent support. In general it was a good decision on the part of the guitarists to mix some well known and easy to follow standards with their own repertoire which requires more intense listening. The Latin theme is continued with a second Corea composition ‘Armando’s Rhumba’. What really comes across here is that while both guitarists are extremely well versed in contemporary jazz and indeed guitar influences beyond, they never allow this to get in the way of the music itself or allow their virtuosity to become subservient to the overall sound. A jazz guitarist’s nirvana is guaranteed on this fine new release.( Tim Stenhouse

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