Matt, Martin, and William: The Other MMW
And then, POP!!! Wilson brought us out of the lull he had eased the audience into and all of a sudden emerged with a series of strongly accented hits on the snare and toms. I mean, these were loud hits. With this solo Wilson had convinced me that he too was a remarkably versatile player. I knew him as this quirky dude with a flair for the avant-garde (knowing about his work with the Jazz Composers Collective in New York). But I had never imagined this side of his playing. It shed an entirely different light on his breadth of influences.
Then Mays took us up to the clouds with Wind’s tune, “Little Prayer.” The bassist stated the melody in a free-time arco solo, indicating his strong legit chops followed by a an inspired solo by Mays, while Wilson carefully listened and without looking caught Mays in solo-flight going into a bouncing double-time feel.
They continued on the ethereal vibe with a stirring medley of Ellington’s “Single Petal of a Rose,” and Billy Strayhorn’s “Passion Flower,” before reverting to Charlie Parker’s burner, “Ah-Leu-Cha.” The contrapuntal melody was achieved by a duet between Mays and a bowed Wind. The pianist then dazzled the audience with a hard-swinging Bud Powell-like solo, energetically pushed by Wind’s now-pizzicato, then-arco walking and Wilson’s incessant bass drum and hi-hat flourishes.
The set closed with the classic David Radisson tune, Laura, apparently from a movie called “The Bad and the Beautiful,” followed by “Sippin’ At Bells,” by Miles Davis.
Overall, I left the set feeling like I had been taken through time; from the 30s and 40s to the future of this music. This latter feeling is echoed by the mantra of Mays’ label Palmetto Records: “the future of jazz is now.” By showing their appreciation for the great American songbook, a dedication to performing Ellington’s lesser-known works and an evident desire to reinvent tunes by pushing the envelope with modern metric mixtures and heady reharmonizations, the Bill Mays Trio deserves to be in your CD player if not on your calendar.
For more information on Bill Mays visit him at www.billmays.net .