Since the mid-1980s, jazz multi-instrumentalist Gary Meek has performed everywhere from Africa to Asia to Europe. These days, Meek isn’t on the road as often as he once was. And he is happy about that.
“Jazz touring takes a lot of energy and stamina,” the sax and keyboard player says. “They are all beautiful places and I am glad to have been to them. But I like what I do now a lot better.”
What he does now is live in Monterey County – he moved here about 11 years ago – and play jazz music.
“People are receptive here,” says Meek. “I made more friends in my first year than maybe anywhere else I’ve been.”
One of those friends is Dennis Murphy, who runs the eponymous Monterey-based music school, where Meek is an instructor. Another is legendary jazz drummer Dottie Dodgion, with whom Meek often performs in Pebble Beach.
Since settling in Monterey, Meek has also been able to dedicate more time to his own material. His 2017 album Originals, which he says came together in a “magical way,” has received critical acclaim. His ensemble, the Gary Meek Quintet, performs regularly.
His path also crossed with plastic-surgeon-by-day, drummer-by-night David Morwood, who leads regular Friday night jazz sessions at the Hyatt in Monterey – what Morwood has described as the “closest we come to having a New York City-style jazz club here” – where Meek performs this weekend.
And although Meek has settled down, he has not slowed down. With a schedule that keeps him busy – as often six days a week – Meek is arguably as happy as he has ever been.
He’s been at it for awhile now. At 25 years old, the Los Angeles native was chosen to play keyboards on pop star Dionne Warwick’s 1986 world tour. Following that, he joined the Brazilian-based Fourth World ensemble and continued touring for the next two decades – notably with jazz greats Herb Alpert, Al Jarreau and Brian Bromberg.
But as the shows became bigger, some of the magic began to wane.
Meek recalls Grammy-winning keyboardist Jeff Lorber telling him after a gig how the $200 they made that night felt a lot better than the few thousand he made in a single recording session.
“We always remember the hard experiences more than the easier ones,” Meek says. “In a way, they were much more rewarding.”
JAZZ IN THE FIREPLACE LOUNGE featuring Gary Meek 7pm Friday, Nov. 29. Hyatt Regency Hotel and Spa, 1 Old Golf Course Road, Monterey. No cover. 372-1234, hyatt.com/monterey.