Star-Bulletin Features

The guitar man

Paul Meyers picks a bit
of jazz and Brazilian at
the Hawai'i Guitar Festival

By Gary C.W. Chun

As a first-timer to the Hawai'i Guitar Festival, Paul Meyers has only to thank Gene Bertoncini.

Paul Meyers

New York jazz guitarist Bertoncini, who has performed as a festival guest a number of times, often crossed paths with Meyers, and always asked him when he, too, would travel to Hawaii.

Bertoncini always had positive things to say about his island experience, so it seemed only a matter of time when Meyers would follow suit. And, like Bertoncini, Meyers will perform in a duo setting of straight-ahead jazz and Brazilian music with local bassist Byron Yasui tomorrow night at the University of Hawaii-Manoa campus.

"I still enjoy the different challenges of playing in different combinations. I can get into doing a duet, and I'm happy I'll be playing with Byron," Meyers said by phone Tuesday from his New Jersey home.

Most jazz fans are probably not familiar with Meyers' music. His most visible work was performing with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, both as a sideman on the "Portraits of Ellington" CD and for children in a program of New Orleans jazz.

Meyers also released a solo guitar CD five years ago called "Blues for the Millennium," that featured jazz and Brazilian pieces, original compositions and his transcriptions of seven Bartok pieces.

"This year, the work's been pretty good for me. I've been lucky; a lot of friends of mine didn't work for months after Sept. 11, and I've been touring some with Andy Bey and Jon Hendricks." He also teaches part time at two New Jersey universities and plays in three side bands.

But Meyers' passion is Brazilian music. "I remember listening to (guitarist) Baden Powell records in the mid-'80s. As a guitar player it's very easy to be hooked by his sound. I learned the music both from his records and from Brazilian musicians around New York. Brazil has a very rich musical culture, very sensuous, spontaneous and warm. Even when it's sad, it still has that uplifting quality."

Meyers started taking classical guitar lessons when he was 12, then turned to playing in rock and blues bands in high school. "I began to get into jazz at 17 when I started listening to Django Reinhardt and Wes Montgomery. I'm used to playing both acoustic and electric guitar. While the right-hand techniques are different between the both of them, I still perform with an acoustic for the Brazilian music, and a handmade electric Borys for the jazz."

Play me

Hawai'i Guitar Festival 2002:

Where: Orvis Auditorium, University of Hawaii-Manoa
When: 7:30 p.m. today through Saturday (featuring Darryl Gonzales today, Paul Meyers and Byron Yasui tomorrow, and Denis Azabagic on Saturday)
Tickets: $20 and $15 ($50 special for all three concerts, advance purchase only)
Call: 956-6878

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