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Bill Mays and Friends: Mays Plays Mays

Jack Bowers By

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Apart from whatever else it may entail, Mays Plays Mays surpasses most other recent enterprises thanks in large measure to pianist Bill Mays' singular artistry as composer, arranger and keyboard master. Now well into his seventh decade, Mays, who has made his living playing mostly other people's music, has devoted this album (for the most part) to his own songs and charts, even appending lyrics to (and singing on) a pair of them ("Play Song," whose lyric is by Mays' wife, Judy, and "Kalavrita"). The exceptions to the rule are Chris Cuvier's "Mays in the Mirror" and the Gershwin brothers' "How Long Has This Been Going On?"

The "friends" in the album's stellar lineup include bassist Martin Wind, drummer Matt Wilson, and (on three tracks each) trumpeter Marvin Stamm and guitarist John Hart, each of whom makes a significant contribution to the album's success. Even so, it is Mays' elegant piano that is in the forefront most of the way, and he shows time and again why he is so eminently resourceful and widely sought after by other musicians to enhance their recordings. His approach is clear and decisive, his improvisations bright and sensible, making for a persuasive and pleasurable listening experience.

While Mays' music isn't strictly thematic, there are a number of dedications, including those to friends Arne de Keijzer ("Birthday Blues") and Joelle Baron ("Jolie Joelle"), to an island in the Bahamas ("Exuma"), bandmates Wind and Wilson ("MW2"), wife Judy ("Ten Chelsea Evening"), pianist Mike Wofford ("For Woff"), Mays' parents and siblings ("Martha," "Whistling Pastor," "Mark David," "Eileen's Birthday Waltz") and last but not least, the lively "Kalavrita," named for a town in Greece and enhanced by Stamm's eloquent flugel solo and Mays' rocking Fender Rhodes. The upshot is that everything works well, from blues to waltz, ballad to whistling. Mays has a field day on every number, while his well-chosen teammates lend him all the latitude and support he needs.

Bill Mays plays well in any setting; and when Mays Plays Mays, there's even more beguiling music to absorb and appreciate.

Track Listing: Birthday Blues; Exuma; Mays In The Mirror; Jolie Joelle; MW2; Play Song; Snow Job; How Long Has This Been Going On; Ten; Chelsea Evening; For Woff; Martha; Whistling Pastor; Mark David; Eileen's Birthday Waltz; Kalavrita.

Personnel: Bill Mays: piano, Fender Rhodes electric piano, vocals; Martin Wind: bass and acoustic bass guitar; Matt Wilson: drums and percussion; Marvin Stamm: trumpet and flugelhorn; John Hart: guitar.

Title: Mays Plays Mays | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: No Blooz Music

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