Ryan Meagher at the Jazz Station - Eugene
Portland jazz stalwart, Ryan Meagher, is celebrating the release of his ninth album as a leader. AftEarth is a collaboration with a visual artist.
- Ryan Meagher guitar/compositions
- Tim Willcox saxophones
- Andrew Jones bass
- Charlie Doggett drums
As with all the best jazz musicians, guitarist Ryan Meagher (pronounced Marr) refuses to sit still. The Portland-based composer and player maintains a steady stream of activity, whether that’s teaching at various schools throughout the Northwest, performing regular gigs around his hometown, or writing thoughtful music that spans the vast spectrum of jazz music, from post-bop to Latin to avant-garde.
Meagher’s forward momentum was fomented early, during his teen years growing up in San Jose, California, where he split his time between taking baseball practice and working out his guitar chops in a series of youthful garage bands. From there, he began his most serious music studies, both in the classrooms and rehearsal halls of San Diego State University, and, starting in 2003, the clubs and venues of New York City. That combination of academic inquiry and the make-or-break proving ground of one of the country’s brightest artistic centers brought about Meagher’s thoughtful compositional style and a curiosity that has allowed him to move between musical worlds with ease.
That’s as clear as anything on his first two albums: 2004’s self-released Sun Resounding and 2007’s Atroefy (on Fresh Sound New Talent). The former sparkles with clean tones, acoustic diversions, and the vibrant chemistry of Meagher and his cohorts, including pianist Bryn Roberts and drummer Greg Ritchie, while the latter grinds a little harder with some heavier, rock-inspired guitar work and the snapping rhythms of drummer Vinnie Sperrazza and bassist Geoff Kraly. And on his 2012 album Tone, recorded as he split his time between NYC and his graduate studies at University of Nevada, Reno, he injected cool blasts of open air into his compositions, letting solos stretch out languidly and the notes and chords of Meagher and trumpeter Shane Endsley and saxophonist Matt Blostein.
After moving to Portland in 2012, Meagher has kept exploring and kept busy. Besides his work as the director of jazz programs at Lower Columbia College in Longview, Washington, and as a guitar teacher at Mount Hood Community College and the University of Portland, he is also a co-founder and Programming Director of the Montavilla Jazz Festival, Artistic Director of the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble (and director of their in-house label PJCE Records), and Director of the Lower Columbia College Summer Jazz Workshop.
All that activity hasn’t dulled Meagher’s creativity one bit. During the past decade, he has served as bandleader for four albums—2013’s Tango In The City of Roses, 2016’s Mist. Moss. Home., and 2018’s Evil Twin (all released on PJCE Records), as well as his return to Fresh Sound New Talent, 2018’s Lost Days—which showcase all the tools in his arsenal, as well as his keen ear for musicians to perform with, including keyboardist George Colligan, guitarist Mike Gamble, and drummer Matt Mayhall.
Now fully ensconced in the Portland music community, Meagher has become a trusted collaborator, lending his talents to saxophonist Bryan Smith’s two most recent albums This Is Water and Let Me Take You There and pianist Andrew Durkin’s playful full-length Breath of Fire, and jumping onstage to support the genre-fluid ensemble Mostly Other People Do The Killing, vocalist Rebecca Kilgore, and legends like Randy Brecker, Cuong Vu, and David Friesen. If that weren’t enough, he took on the unique challenge of performing in the house band for a touring production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights that played to much acclaim at Portland Center Stage.
Meagher’s combination of fearlessness, talent, and drive has made him the model of a modern jazz player, with years of experience and an array of influences to draw from and an eye poised to the future of his chosen genre. There’s no stopping him now.
-bio written by Robert Ham (Twitter: @roberthamwriter )