Norman Meehan is a pianist and composer from Aotearoa. His music is currently focused on song settings of poetry in projects he pursues collaboratively with New Zealand vocalist Hannah Griffin. Their work has traversed the poetry of North American poet E. E. Cummings, and New Zealand poets Hone Tuwhare, James K. Baxter, Eileen Duggan, Alistair Te Ariki Campbell and David Mitchell. The primary focus of their music-making in recent years has been an active collaboration with New Zealand’s inaugural Poet Laureate, Bill Manhire. Their recordings have been released by Rattle Records and Victoria University Press.
Bill, Hannah and Norman, with multi-instrumentalists including Colin Hemmingsen and Blair Latham, have performed in concerts and festivals in Europe and around New Zealand.
Norman taught for many years but these days the bulk of his time is dedicated to music and writing. He is the author of New Zealand Jazz Life (VUP, 2016), Serious Fun: The Life and Music of Mike Nock (VUP, 2010) and Conversations with Paul Bley (Berkeley Hills, 2003). His most recent book, a biography of New Zealand composer Jenny McLeod, was published in 2023: Jenny McLeod: A Life in Music.
Norman’s other musical projects include Unwind, a quartet with saxophonist Hayden Chisholm, bassist Paul Dyne and drummer Julien Dyne. Their work is documented on Unwind, Orange, Saffron and Daylight (all Rattle Records). Unwind tours Aotearoa annually, with the next shows booked for February 2024. Aakneson (which includes Norman along with Hannah, Blair Latham [saxophone, flute and guitars], Andrew Laking [bass] and Lance Philip [drums]) recently released Bifrost, songs that know about jazz but are closer in spirit to Pink Floyd, Talk Talk and Traffic. The lyrics, all by Bill, explore themes drawn from ancient Norse traditions. Aakneson are produced by Neil Aldridge.
There are two new projects with Hannah: Wāhine is a collaborative project with producer Thomas Voyce and features song settings of poems by Hinemoana Baker, Cilla McQueen and Janet Frame; and a forthcoming album of Bill’s poems concerned with mortality—Little Prayers—and featuring violinist Martin Riseley and a small chamber group. Watch for this in 2024.
Norman lives with his partner in the Wellington, New Zealand.