Upright bassist Edgar Meyer teams up with Béla Fleck at Laxson
Grammy-winning multi-genre instrumentalists and longtime friends Béla Fleck and Edgar Meyer are going to be performing at CSU, Chico’s Laxson Auditorium. For music folks, that’s enough said to pack the place. For the uninitiated, here’s a little more info:
Julliard-educated banjo virtuoso Fleck is known for his 1980s membership in the groundbreaking group New Grass Revival featuring the legendary fiddler, mandolinist and vocalist Sam Bush, and for his wildly innovative band Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, among other things. Upright bassist extraordinaire Meyer, a 2002 MacArthur Fellowship Award winner—no small feat—was described by The New Yorker as “the most remarkable virtuoso in the relatively unchronicled history of his instrument.” Meyer, like Fleck, is equally at home playing bluegrass and newgrass as he is classical or jazz or any combination thereof.
Fleck and Meyer’s amazing collaborative album of 2002, Music for Two, featuring originals as well as Bach compositions and a Miles Davis tune, is accurately described in a review by Michael John Simmons: “[I]t all blends together so seamlessly. Fleck’s jazz-tinged compositions … and Meyer’s bluegrass-inspired tunes sit so comfortably next to Bach’s baroque jewels and Davis’s cool jazz that it makes you question the entire concept of musical classification.” Simmons adds that Fleck and Meyer’s performance proves that the banjo and the bass are “capable of remarkable subtlety and not just twang and boom.” Amen to that.
Meyer shares his Nashville, Tenn. home with his wife, violinist Connie Heard, and their 13-year-old son George.
In a telephone interview from his home, Meyer said that for their upcoming Laxson show—where he and Fleck will be playing everything from Mendelssohn to Miles Davis—the duo “will lean on that most recent record,” Music for Two. “We may pull out other things from other old records,” Meyer added.
While we were speaking, Meyer said that he was waiting for Fleck, who lives “eight minutes away” from Meyer in Nashville, to come over so that they could practice.
I then brought up the Sascha Paladino documentary (Paladino is Fleck’s brother) chronicling the making of Music for Two, in which some of the highlights are behind-the-scenes glimpses at Fleck and Meyer’s intense, sometimes quarrel-laden practice sessions.
“It’s a very friendly situation,” the amicable Meyer assured, “but we certainly know how to bicker! That was actually the highest stress level in our 20-plus-year relationship…”
This is the kind of relationship where it’s kind of OK to say what you think,” Meyer continued, “and it’s a safe place to do it, unlike most professional relationships. This is our chemistry and the way we interact, and it’s not the way we interact with other people.”
Meyer recalled beginning his special relationship with Fleck “probably in Aspen, Colorado, or maybe in The Station Inn [in Nashville]. … Anyway, we were certainly put together by Sam Bush. He thought we’d play well together.”
At one point late in our conversation, which covered such subjects as the pain Meyer feels when having to leave his family to go on tour, and son George’s budding musicianship ("He plays quite a few things: violin, mandolin, bass guitar"), Meyer was interrupted by a call on another line.
“It’s Béla,” Meyer came back on the line to tell me. “He’s a block away. He’s almost here.”