Nightbeat: Europa Tapes Live

It's 7:15 in the evening and Europa is going through a final sound check. recording levels agreed on, new tape ("almost virgin," percussionist Jay Schneiderman pronounces) mounted on the reel to reel, and they're ready to go.

Bandleader and guitarist Alfredo Merat readjusts his headset, grins, makes a joke to Carl Obrig the saxman, blows off a little stress. Tonight's tape at the Wild Rose in Bridgehampton is destined to be transferred to CD - the band's first. Europa, "Live at the Wild Rose Cafe," should be available "probably within two months," according to Wendy Wachtel, the enthusiastic promo person on site. I tell her the sound check sounds good. "Tip of the iceberg," she replies.

Set now tape rolls. Alfredo Merat fingers his guitar through the opening notes of "L'Aube" (The Dawn). Jay Schneiderman eases conga drum punctuations into the sound of Merat's rhythm while, stage left, Brian Leclerc overlays embellishments on guitar. Soprano saxophone, supplied by Carl Obrig, slides in to compete the mix. word has it that Obri is suffering from a high fever. He looks very tiered and plays very beautifully.

Europa plays the music of Alfredo Merat, a native of Spain who has come - by way of France - to call Sag Harbor his home. Through the three house recording session he will present original material in three languages - French, Spanish and English - sung in a fine, expressive voice. Later he will admit to being still slightly uncomfortable at times with English; writing and singing it, he says, are still a challenge.

A personal man with obvious enthusiasm and love for the music he is making, he will offer the rolling tape and small walk-in-audience a performance filled with passion and love. As the music begins to take shape one catches glimpses of soaring grace riding high lonesome winds; then rain-soaked night-blackened cityscapes.

Alfredo Merat's music leads him to a tightly focused source of inspiration. Jazz based, with colorations of French club music, the sound is narrow but deep. repeating modal chord structure allow the individual soloists great room to express and enlarge upon improvisational themes while keeping the straight-ahead thrust of the music centered. An informed listener explained it succinctly: "Once you set the limits (of where the music will go) you have ultimate freedom to explore possibilities within them."

The resulting effect is reminiscent of Pat Metheney and Lyle Mays on "As Falls Wichita..." This is music that drifts and flows like the tides, receding and returning again and again. it almost sounds like a jet plane's vapor trail look, or like the soundtrack for a cross-country drive to California.

A look at the lyrics reveals the heart of a compassionate post. Images of joy in the face of poverty and loss abound in "Brazil,"while "La Verdad" (The Truth) begins with these powerful lines: "They shut in the truth/in a jail of pain,/they left it there without skin,/so nobody would fall in love with it." "BBC Broadcast" offers an impressionistic collage of sound and staccato stream-of-conscioness spoken phrases.

"I am always happy when people enjoy my songs," said Merat after the sessions. he cited the Sag harbor area as a positive influence on his desire to play his music. "I did not know if Americans would be so responsive to European music, "the guitarist said,

He is hopeful that the recording will be well-recieved and that word-of-mouth will encourage more people to come and listen to the band. "It really doesn't cost that much to make a CD today, so we pooled our money and decided to give it a try. i fell fortunate to have found other musicians here that love to play the same music that I do."

There is much individual and ensemble talent in Europa. They present smooth, flowing music that is pleasing to the ear. It's my guess that this summer will fund many people enjoying the music of Alfredo Merat and Europa.

"Live at the Wild Rose Cafe," was recorded on Wednesday night, March 15 at the Wild Rose cafe in Bridgehamton

Europa Studio Project
Overseas Records
631-725-9308 ext. 12
Sponsored By