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Jon Mayer: The Art of the Ballad

C. Michael Bailey By

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Jon Mayer not John Mayer. This particular Mayer is a jazz pianist currently living on the West Coast who has been plying his Jazz trade in one form or another since the mid-1950s. Early on, Mayer played on two notable sessions: alto saxophonist Jackie McLean's Strange Blues (Prestige, 1957) and on the John Coltrane sessions recorded between 1958 and 1960 that eventually became Like Sonny (Roulette, 1990). Mayer did a stretch in Paris in the late '50s where he periodically supported Chet Baker during his expatriate period.

Mayer previously recorded seven CDs as a leader, including Nightscape (Reservoir, 2010), So Many Stars (Reservoir, 2007), The Classics (Reservoir, 2003) and Full Circle (Reservoir, 2002). Mayer has a light, breezy piano style more durable than Bill Evans without being as industrial as Horace Silver.

Mayer's present recording is an intimate affair, The Art of the Ballad (Self Produced). The pianist includeds a dozen well-considered classics, performed in a live setting (as it always appropriate) at Portland, Oregon's Classic Pianos. Mayer has never been a wordy pianist. He is measured in his use of the more technical elements of playing, paying special attention to the melody, but never at the expense of improvisation. He serves a completely enjoyable "'Round Midnight," playing it with all its curves and edges, but effectively taking the piece from its composer and making it his own.

Mayer turns "Willow Weep for Me" into a languid blues stroll that recalls the playing of the late Gene Harris and Oscar Peterson sans the fireworks. "My Romance" is proof of the perfection of the ballad in the Great American Songbook. Mayer approaches the Rodgers and Hart melody with stealth, sneaking up and capturing it before the listener detects it. "Young and Foolish," "When I Fall in Love" and "For All We know" are dispatched with a quiet confidence and internal beauty that have become Mayer's calling card.

Track Listing: Prelude to a Kiss; My Foolish Heart; Round Midnight; Willow Weep for Me; My Romance; Never Never Land; My One and Only Love; Don't Misunderstand; Young and Foolish; When I Fall in Lover; Come Rain or Come Shine; For All We Know.

Personnel: Jon Mayer: piano.

Title: The Art of the Ballad | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Udj

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