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Jon Mayer: Live at the Athenaeum

C. Michael Bailey By

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Pianist Jon Mayer has been quietly building his considerable discography over the last 25 years. Live at the Athenaeum joins eight previous releases that include, Full Circle (Reservoir Music, 2002); So Many Stars (Reservoir Music, 2007); Nightscape (Reservoir Music, 2009); and The Art of the Ballad (UDJ, 2014). These releases more than solidify Mayer's bona fides as an inventive composer and interpreter.

Recorded at the Athenaeum in La Jolla, CA, Live at the Athenaeum proves a ballad-lover's delight with Mayer planting his feet solidly in the balladic terrain of "All the things You Are" and "My Foolish Heart" to open this nine-song recital. Mayer is provided solid accompaniment by bassist Darek Oles and urbane drummer Roy McCurdy, the patter presently enjoying his nonagenarian years in the Southern California sunshine. The trio swings with an ease provided only by experience. So strong are the ballad vibes of these three, these performances could be used for a master class in the art. Mayer's light touch, Oles' strong time, and McCurdy's sturdy and deft brush work make short business of the arranging decisions.

Mayer does take time to look for the up-tempo, presenting a bouncing "Minority" that quickly goes 4/4 to the floor. "The Touch of Your Lips" is given a faster performance than usual, with Mayer popping block chords with enhanced harmonics into the mix. Oles leans into the propulsion he provides the song while McCurdy, switched to sticks, completes the momentum overdrive. Beautiful is Mayer's homage to his wife, "Shari's Bolero." McCurdy provides a sound Latin beat on his toms, allowing Mayer his broadest palette upon which to paint. Mayer pays another homage in his covering performance of pianist Bill Cunliffe's "Lakeside," where he stamps with modern classic with his own piquant thought. Mayer never disappoints and does not start to with Live at the Athenaeum.

Track Listing: All the Things You Are; My Foolish Heart; Minority; Tenderly; The Touch of Your Lips; Shari’s Bolero; Young and Foolish; Lakeside; For All We Know.

Personnel: Jon Mayer: piano; Darek Oles: bass; Ron McCurdy: drums.

Title: Live at the Athenaeum | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: BluePort Records

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