Although it hasn’t been confirmed, a Music Academy of the West first may have occurred during last Thursday’s Edgar Meyer recital at Hahn Hall, when the double bass master ended his bright, virtuosic recital with a jig. Jigs and the other traditional folk and Americana-fired elements aren’t often featured in Music Academy’s programming, but then again, Meyer is hardly a typical entrant in the institution’s musical orbit.
He handily demonstrated his organic instrumental prowess and musicality by moving from the first of Bach’s “cello” Suites through a three-movement original work-in-progress and a second half of mostly assorted Meyer originals. The musician’s appearance was the finale of the Mosher Guest Artist Recital summer series, following adventurous flutist Claire Chase and celebrated Academy alum mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard. Unfortunately, pianist Pierre Laurent-Aimard’s recital/visit was canceled due to a family emergency.
A sophisticated but still down-home Nashville cat, Meyer has occasionally played Santa Barbara, including progressive “newgrass” at the Live Oak Festival, a memorable recital at architect Barton Myers’s Romero Canyon home, and classical settings. He returns to Campbell Hall on October 19 with Béla Fleck and Zakir Hussain.
Looking something like a film noir gumshoe but playing like a tough-love angel, Meyer made a strong first impression by proving his unique perspective on the Bach suites, bringing his lower, richer-toned timbre and character to the landmark work. His “work-in-progress” shifted from tautly planned outer movements — call it Americana minimalism — and a bluesy, improvisational nougat center. A second set of such fetching, glissando-goosed tunes as “Barnyard Disturbance,” “Please Don’t,” and the pizzicato percolations of “Frog-Like” led to an endgame of covers: a Jobim tune and a jig, reminding us that we weren’t in conventional Music Academy land anymore.