Björn Meyer

There is a distinguished tradition of solo bass albums on ECM, but Provenance is the first to be devoted to the electric bass guitar. Björn Meyer, Swedish-born and Swiss-based, has shaped a unique voice for his instrument inside the most diverse contexts, working alongside Persian harpist and singer Asita Hamidi, Swedish nyckelharpa player Johan Hedin, and Tunisian oud master Anouar Brahem. For a decade he was a member of Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin, in which his bass guitar was frequently the lead instrument. His solo work is concerned with the experience of sound in acoustic spaces: “Even though the instrument is technically non-acoustic, the music is deeply influenced by the properties of the space where it is played. The many different ways in which acoustics affect my compositions and improvisations have always been sources of surprise and inspiration. There is definitely a second member in this solo project – the room!” The participating room on Provenance is the highly responsive Auditorio Stello Molo RSI in Lugano, its rich acoustics helping to bring out all the fine detail in Meyer’s subtle playing.
Es gibt eine starke Tradition von Solo-Bass-Alben bei ECM, allerdings ist Provenance das erste, das der elektrischen Bassgitarre gewidmet ist. Björn Meyer, in Schweden geboren und in der Schweiz lebend, hat über die Jahre eine unverwechselbare Stimme auf seinem Instrument entwickelt, und das in höchst unterschiedlichen Kontexten: mit der persischen Harfenistin und Sängerin Asita Hamidi, dem schwedischen Nyckelharpa-Spieler Johan Hedin oder dem tunesischen Oud-Meister Anouar Brahem. Eine Dekade lang war Meyer Mitglied von Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin, einer Formation, in der sein Bass häufig als Leadinstrument fungierte.
In seiner Soloarbeit fasziniert ihn besonders das Zusammenspiel von elektronisch erzeugten Klängen und dem jeweiligen Konzertraum:
„Obwohl das Instrument rein technisch gesehen nicht akustisch ist, wird die Musik stark von den Eigenschaften des Raums, in dem sie gespielt wird, beeinflusst. Die ganz unterschiedlichen Weisen, auf die die Akustik auf meine Kompositionen und Improvisationen einwirkt, waren schon immer Quellen der Überraschung und Inspiration. Es gibt definitiv einen zweiten Mitspieler in diesem Solo-Projekt – das ist der Raum!“ Der mitwirkende Raum auf Provenance ist das stark ansprechende Auditorio Stello Molo RSI in Lugano, dessen reiche Akustik dazu beiträgt, all die feinen Details in Meyers subtilem Spiel herauszustellen.
Featured Artists Recorded

August 2016, Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI, Lugano

Original Release Date


  • 1Aldebaran
    (Björn Meyer)
  • 2Provenance
    (Björn Meyer)
  • 3Three Thirteen
    (Björn Meyer)
  • 4Squizzle
    (Björn Meyer)
  • 5Trails Crossing
    (Björn Meyer)
  • 6Traces Of A Song
    (Björn Meyer)
  • 7Pendulum
    (Björn Meyer)
  • 8Banyan Waltz
    (Björn Meyer)
  • 9Pulse
    (Björn Meyer)
  • 10Dance
    (Björn Meyer)
  • 11Garden Of Silence
    (Asila Hamidi)
  • 12Merry-Go-Round
    (Björn Meyer)
Due to its relatively young age, the bass guitar is still growing both physically and sonically. The instrument has long been treated with mistrust and even contempt in more traditional jazz circles where it is seen as a poor substitute for its larger, older brother. This makes ECM’s first release of a solo bass guitar album all the more welcome. [..] Much of the compositional material is built around mournful arpeggiated chords. The appeal of the music is how Meyer goes on to manipulate these foundations and how the glacial changes in texture draw the listener in to a state of relaxation. The chord structures draw influence from the dark ambient and post rock genres. The problem with chords on the bass guitar is that they can sound too dense. However, the bass is beautifully recorded with great clarity between the notes. […] Meyer has taken a unique approach to composition for solo bass guitar. It is one that will move the instrument forward as much as it will move the listener emotionally.
John Marley, Jazz Views
What wonderful surprises the ECM label can offer up with hitherto unrecognised musicians who offer atmospheric recordings of great depth and beauty. This is one such example from Swedish bassist Björn Meyer on this intoxicating all original set. Meyer has collaborated with Tunisian oud player Anouar Brahem and Persian harpist/singer Asita Hamidi and is a long-time member of the Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin band, but this solo debut is all about generating sounds on the bass. It is the hypnotic beauty of the sounds generated that impressed this writer most and the evident virtuosity is backed up by a musical mind that communicates his love of roots music across the globe.
Tim Stenhouse, UK Vibe
Was Björn Meyer für seinen E-Bass entdeckt, ist nichts Minderes als die andere, die zweite Seite der Elektrizität. Er mikroskopiert klangfarbliche Details. Es ist im Grunde nicht anders als seinerzeit bei Billie Holiday: Das Mikrofon erlaubte eine nie gekannte Intensität.  Gerade diese Seite intimer Konfessionen macht auch ‚Provenance‘ aus.
Christoph Merki, Tagesanzeiger
Meyers aus intuitiven Notizen entwickelte Kompositionen formen sich tatsächlich zu Songs, die unerwartet neue Wege gehen. Ja, das ist wenig Jazz, und es ist auch nicht verkehrt, wenn man sich hier an Formen des sog. ‚Postrock‘ oder an Ambient erinnert fühlt; ‚Provenance‘ ist Musik wie Atmen. […] Björn Meyer ist ein vielseitiger Klangpoet, der seine Erfahrungen in multinationalen Gruppen um Anouar Brahem und Asita Hamidi in aufs Wesentliche reduzierte musikalische Bilder überführt und damit einen reichlich persönlichen Kosmos eröffnet.
Ingo J. Biermann, Nordische Musik
With just one guitar, four strings, and a fretboard, ‘Provenance’ demonstrates that melodic high-jiinks and emotional intensity aren’t just for those who inhabit the treble stave. Meyer’s bass sings. […] Crucial to the clean sound is the studio space itself. Auditorio Stelio Molo in Lugano creates an acoustic playground in which the electric bass, unfiltered, can soar and liberate itself. Meyer himself describes the room as ‘the second member’ of this solo project. […] Layer after thin layer of thin musical lacquer building into a glorious, shinning finish, but you don’t feel or sense progression. This is not an album to listen while driving or in company. Simply sit, listen and absorb.
Rob Mallows, London Jazz News
He favours gentle dynamics and off-centre registral choices and also regards room acoustics as being important to his sound, so his music, subtle yet richly engaging, is genuinely ambient.
Roger Thomas, BBC Music Magazine
Underrated: Playing like an atmospheric exploration of the reach of an electric guitar, this solo release from a longtime member of Nik Bärtsch's jazz-rock ensemble Ronin instead testifies to broad capabilities of its sibling the bass. Using a six-string instrument and a bank of electronics, this Swedish-born artist is just as adept conjuring a latticework of notes and echo on the album’s title track, or a rattling sort of funk on ‘Squizzle’ that recalls the more driving ventures by more stripped-down guitarists such as Leo Kottke.
Chris Barton, L.A. Times
Playing both electric and acoustic bass guitar, Meyer augments the sound with the light use of electronics. The effects of the latter are most evident on the opening piece ‘Aldebaran’ and ‘Squizzle.’ […] The electronic element is more subtle throughout the remaining ten tracks. ‘Banyan Waltz’ and ‘Garden Of Silence’ are constructed around somber broken chords and beautifully expressive melodies. Meyer moves beyond tranquility with more powerful cadences the tracks ‘Three Thirteen’ and ‘Squizzle.’ […] The album is often stunningly beautiful; bittersweet tones and deeply affecting melodies brought to life with Meyer's unique guitar-like use of the bass. Highly recommended.
Karl Ackermann, All About Jazz
There is a distinguished tradition of albums devoted to solo bass on ECM, but Provenance is the first to showcase the electric bass guitar. Björn Meyer, born in Sweden and long based in Switzerland, has shaped a distinctive voice on his instrument within diverse contexts. He has worked alongside Persian harpist-singer Asita Hamidi, Swedish nyckelharpa player Johan Hedin and Tunisian oud master Anouar Brahem; and for a decade, Meyer was a member of Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin, in which his throbbing bass guitar was often a lead instrument. Meyer’s solo work explores the sound of the bass in acoustic space, as he points out in his booklet essay for the new album: “Even though the instrument is technically non-acoustic, the music is deeply influenced by the properties of the space where it is played. The many different ways in which acoustics affect my compositions and improvisations have always been sources of surprise and inspiration. There is definitely a second member in this solo project – the room!” The room for Provenance was the highly responsive Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI in Lugano, the Swiss radio studio’s rich acoustics helping to bring out all the detail in Meyer’s atmospheric solo creations.
 Meyer has taken his bass guitar into realms in which electronic instruments rarely figure, as in his collaborations with musicians steeped in the acoustic traditions of their countries. Working with Hedin, Hamidi and Brahem gave Meyer “many reasons to re-think the function of my instrument but also to invent new ways of adding sounds and extending its tonal range,” he says. The bassist appears on two of Brahem’s recent, widely acclaimed albums on ECM: Souvenance (2015) and The Astounding Eyes of Rita (2009), with The Guardian praising “the contemporary edge” Meyer added to the Tunisian’s music.
In the electro-acoustic “Zen-funk” of Ronin — where rhythmic inspirations from Steve Reich to James Brown come together, along with influences from Japanese theater and music — Meyer’s drive and subtlety were key, his sound integral to the sonic momentum of the ECM albums Stoa (2006), Holon (2008), Llyría (2010) and Live (2012). An expert testimonial to Meyer’s instrumental prowess has come from his successor in Ronin, Swiss bassist Thomy Jordi. He said: “Björn is one of the few bass players in the world to have developed a unique style on the instrument. His concepts of sound and technique are highly personal… In his music, he seems to integrate many sources of traditional music, creating a beautiful, spiritual, modern world language.”
 In his booklet essay for Provenance, Meyer recounts that in preparing for solo performances over the past few years he would follow a ritual starting 27 days before a concert, one that included recording whatever he was working on: improvisations, experiments, practicing, actual compositions, or various combinations of those. “At some point during each day, I would cut out exactly 60 seconds of music and release it on the internet as a kind of countdown or diary of ideas,” he writes. “When I started preparing for this album, there were already more than 150 such fragments… I made it a mission to revisit most of the fragments and see what kind of program they would evoke. Arriving in the studio, I had a clear picture of what material I wanted to use — but I hadn’t anticipated how strongly the room would affect the music. Lugano Radio Studio is a fantastic sounding room, and it opened up for a few improvisations and a fully new piece written in the night between the recording days, in spite of the blues festival echoing in the streets of Lugano…”
 Provenance ranges from the hushed, guitar-like title track and similarly voiced “Pendulum” to the Ronin-like rhythmic minimalism of “Dance,” from the pensive tunefulness of “Banyan Waltz” and “Three Thirteen” to his textured interpretation of Hamidi’s entrancing “Garden Of Silence.” There’s also room for the virtuoso strummed funk of “Squizzle.” In the booklet, Meyer writes about his concept for capturing the sonic potential of the electric bass guitar on record, referencing his work in the studio with ECM producer Manfred Eicher and the engineer Stefano Amerio: “Very often when recording electric bass guitar, the fragile sounds of the actual instrument, such as the touching of strings, tend to get forgotten or deliberately left out — yet they inspire me in the search for new sonorities and playing techniques. With this recording, I wanted to share an alternative experience of the instrument, the way I hear it. I am very grateful that Manfred supported this approach and that Stefano managed to capture the dream behind the idea in the most beautiful way.”