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Life has rebounded quite nicely for pianist Jon Mayer, thank you, now that he has relocated to the West Coast and slowly but surely built up his performing and recording activity to the delight of his listeners there. Not quite falling into the "what ever happened to?" category, Mayer nonetheless dropped from public consciousness for, oh, a couple of decades. And now he's back, Rip Van Winkle-like.
Having been infused with the spirit and style of jazz in the 1950's when New York City was abuzz with young legends-in-the-making like John Coltrane or Jackie McLean, Jon Mayer was there. And recording. And touring. And learning. And inspiring. And making a living. And surviving. In the 1960's and 1970's, Mayer worked with the likes of Sarah Vaughan, Les McCann, Nancy Wilson and Barry White.
And then he dropped out.
Now Mayer is dropping back in. Having teamed with musicians-deserving-greater-recognition Bob Maize and Harold Mason, Mayer has formed a trio that sparkles with ebullience and a wisdom born of experience that's expressed in ease and confidence.
"On Green Dolphin Street" starts with Mayer's solo chorus of gradual modulations and occasional, unexpected substitutions that are so smooth that they delight with richness rather than provoke with brash assertion. Mason knocks and Maize walks in accompaniment, and a piano trio combining entertainment value with harmonic depth begins its performance live at The Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles.
Other gems glimmer throughout the performance including Mayer's spur-of-the-moment shifts of temperament throughout "Shari's Bolero," not so much a bolero as a ballad told with gradually increasing drama and suspense. Mayer's choices of notes and assured development of chord progressions on Kenny Barron's "Tragic Magic" are tasteful, not quite resolving as expected and yet not jarring in their surprise. After the bounce of "Red Top," Mayer ends with Miles Davis' "The Theme" as the supercharged trio finally closes with verve and snap.
Mayer's trio, like the famous Bill Evans/Scott LaFaro/Paul Motian trio, consists of equals feeding each other ideas. When they solo, Maize and Mason already are energized by the concept and logic of the tunes. Playing in the upper range with a fluidity more like a guitarist than a bassist, Maize's quickness and proficiency of technique allow him to express his melodies as quickly as he can think of then, particularly on "Shari's Bolero," while Maize's melancholy, presented in solo, colors the trio's rendition of "If You Could See Me Now." Likewise, Mason possesses a lively and yet mature style that accents Mayer's thematic developments while Mason acquits himself as an incisive voice of his own, given the opportunity to solo.
Rip Van Winkle proves that Jon Mayer is fully awake from his perceived slumber and is creating original music in a personal style once again.
On Green Dolphin Street, Shari's Bolero, Tragic Magic, Embraceable You, Rip Van Winkle, Stella By Starlight, If You Could See Me Now, Red Top, The Theme
Jon Mayer, piano; Bob Maize, bass; Harold Mason, drums
I love jazz because it mixes intellect and emotion in a very spontaneous way.
I was first exposed to jazz by liberating a Coltrane and a Pharoah Sanders record from a friend in NYC and listening to them over and over until I got it.
My advice to new listeners is you have to take the time to listen to some jazz tunes a number of times until it starts to make sense.