Norman Meehan teaches historical and critical jazz papers at the New Zealand School of Music in Wellington. A well-established and active jazz pianist, Norman has performed original music at festivals and in concerts throughout the country. His album, The Bells (Yellow Eye Records, 2004), was nominated for Best Album in the New Zealand Jazz Awards in 2008. His last album, Sun Moon Stars Rain (Attar Music, 2009), successfully set a selection of poems by North American poet e. e. cummings to music. Hannah Griffin (vocals) and Colin Hemmingsen (reeds) were featured along with fellow Wellingtonian Nick van Dijk on trumpet, and the CD set the template for what would lead to the beautifully realised settings of Bill Manhire poems on Buddhist Rain.
Having set, performed and recorded some poems by e. e. cummings, I was interested in working with material closer to home. A friend gave me a pile of New Zealand poetry books, and as much as I enjoyed them, the poems didn’t really spark musical ideas for me until I started reading Bill Manhire’s “Collected Poems”. Over the first two weeks of looking at these poems, I had written six songs, which is incredibly productive for me, but the poems were so rich and pregnant with music they just kind of popped out. – Norman Meehan
Norman’s research interests include improvisation and its relationship to composition, New Zealand popular music, and creativity in jazz. His publications include Time Will Tell: Conversations with Paul Bley (Berkeley Hills Books, 2003), an extensive article on Paul Bley for The Annual Review of Jazz Studies (Vol. 12), articles on Paul Bley and Wayne Shorter in the IAJE Research Proceedings Yearbook, articles on improvisation and composition for the Jazz Educator’s Journal, and an extensive series of articles on improvisation for Downbeat (USA). Most recently, Norman released Serious Fun: The Life and Music of Mike Nock (Victoria University Press, 2010), a vibrant and accessible biography of one of New Zealand’s greatest musicians.
He is a regular contributor to Radio New Zealand Concert’s Composer of the Week series, writing and presenting extensive histories of jazz musicians Bill Evans, Wayne Shorter, Ornette Coleman and Dave Brubeck. Current projects include articles discussing saxophonist Wayne Shorter’s improvisational strategies, and the various forms creativity may take in jazz performance contexts. In 2009 Norman’s teaching was recognized by Massey University with a Vice Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence, and a national award from AKO Aotearoa for Sustained Excellence in Tertiary Teaching.
For more information, visit Victoria University