Edgar Meyer

Born 1960

Edgar Meyer

Composer • Double bass • Piano • Guitar • Violin

Biography

The American double bassist and composer Edgar Meyer is one of the most revolutionary voices on his instrument. Known for both his uncanny virtuosity on an instrument of staggering difficulty and his fluid movement through genres as diverse as bluegrass, classical and jazz, Meyer’s work has consistently upended expectations and crossed boundaries.

Edgar Meyer was born on November 24th, 1960. His father, Edgar Meyer, Sr., was a double bassist himself and director of the string orchestra program at his son’s school. Meyer began learning bass from his father at the age of 5, quickly developing a remarkable facility on the instrument. His father’s love for classical music and in particular the music ofJohann Sebastian Bach also had a profound impact on the young musician. After finishing high school, Meyer continued his musical studies under Stuart Sankey at Indiana University.

Although Meyer quickly established a reputation as a world-renowned soloist, he is actually most famous for a series of collaborations with notable musicians from the classical and bluegrass worlds. Upon moving to Nashville, Tennessee, Meyer quickly insinuated himself into the progressive bluegrass scene, linking up with musicians Béla Fleck, Mark O’Connor, Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas to form the supergroup Strength in Numbers in the late 1980s. A few years later, Meyer again teamed up with violinist Mark O’Connor, this time with the addition of international cello superstarYo-Yo Ma, to record the album Appalachia Waltz (1996), one of the most remarkable works of classical/folk crossover and a bellwether of many future musical developments.

Over the next two decades, Meyer continued with a series of increasingly diverse and unordinary projects.Uncommon Ritual, his 1997 album featuring banjo player Béla Fleck and mandolinist Mike Marshall, was another milestone of the style of chamber bluegrass which could come to largely define Meyer’s career. Two years later, Meyer released the plaintiveShort Trip Home, with old collaborators Mike Marshall and Sam Bush joined by violin virtuoso Joshua Bell. In 2009, Meyer’s repertoire became even more eclectic with his completion of the Triple Concerto for Double Bass, Banjo and Tabla, featuring Béla Fleck and Zakir Hussain. The work was recorded with the Detroit Symphony under Leonard Slatkin under the nameThe Melody of Rhythm. Around the same time, Meyer began working with the extraordinary mandolinist Chris Thile, best known for his work with the progressive bluegrass bands Nickel Creek and the Punch Brothers.

While he was earning accolades as a bandleader, Meyer was also hard at work proving himself as a classical composer, solo artist and multi-instrumentalist. His 2006 self-titled album was the first to feature all original compositions with every instrument, including piano, guitar, mandolin, dobro, banjo, gamba and of course double bass, played by Edgar Meyer himself. His albumBach: Unaccompanied Cello Suites Performed on Double Bass(2000) demonstrates his mastery of some of the most difficult music adapted for the double bass. Meyer’s orchestral works were also starting to garner attention, including two concertos for double bass, his Double Concerto for Bass and Cello, and a violin concerto written for Hilary Hahn.

Although Meyer is extremely well versed in both classical and jazz music, both his compositions and playing derive the most stylistic influence from bluegrass and American folk music. Albums such asAppalachia Waltz exhibit a heavy Aaron Copland influence, which Meyer has adapted over the course of his career into a unique form of expression. His double bass playing is highly regarded for his remarkable arco playing and unparalleled control over the upper register of the instrument, in addition to a pure tone devoid of excessive vibrato.

Meyer’s extraordinary musical contributions have been widely recognized in the classical community and beyond. Two of his albums have won Grammys;Appalachian Journey(2000) for Best Classical Crossover Album and The Goat Rodeo Sessions  (2011) for Best Folk Album. He has received both the Avery Fisher Career Grant (1994) and the Avery Fisher Prize (2000), and is the only bass player to have won either. In 2002 he received a MacArthur “genius” Award. Meyer is Visiting Professor of Double Bass at Vanderbilt University and at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, as well as maintaining a regular presence as a faculty member at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado.

Meyer’s career shows no sign of slowing as it enters its 4th decade on the international stage. He maintains an active performing and touring schedule throughout the United States, as well as frequent commissions for compositions. He has released one album of original music roughly every two years for the past two decades, a tradition we can only hope will continue for many years to come.

Images courtesy of IMG Artists and the MacArthur Foundation

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