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July/August 2006

Edgar Meyer
Edgar Meyer
Sony Classical

This album deserves to be self-titled. Edgar Meyer wrote all 14 pieces, recorded it himself in his home studio and played all the instruments. They include three basses, viola da gamba, piano, two mandolins, dobro and banjo (or “277 strings,” as the press notes count them).

Meyer is a renowned classical bassist who has also won a Grammy in the “classical crossover” category (for Appalachian Journey, with Yo-Yo Ma and Mark O’Connor). Nowadays, artists make records like this one because, thanks to computers and multitrack recording equipment, they can (assuming, of course, mastery over “277 strings”). But self-collaborative overdubbing involves risks, like artificiality, sterility and unnatural sonic quality.

Meyer’s project avoids these pitfalls more successfully than most. He is interested in texture and mood rather than technical display. As a composer his melodic gifts are real, and as a player his pristine piano and yearning arco bass draw out all the poignance of pieces like “First Things First” and “Whatever.” “Woody Creek” and “Roundabout” are unique in their juxtaposition of decorous classical formalities and nasal bluegrass whines.

But all of Meyer’s considerable musicianship is finally unable to make this music sound organic. It still sounds like separate clever tracks, laid down one at a time.

Originally published in July/August 2006
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