A Night of Jazz at the Edye
I am the original John Mayer," were the first words uttered from the mouth of the John Mayer when he took the stage in the Eyde Second Space at the Madison Campus this past Friday night for the third in a series of the Santa Monica College Music Department's Friday Night Jazz.
"I say that tongue in cheek because there's this other kid who's doing pretty well," said Mayer after the show. "I call him 'the Imposter,' of course in good humor," continued Mayer as he explained the common confusion that comes with sharing a name with another big figure in the music industry. However it would be very difficult to confuse the two if one were to compare their works.
The original John Mayer was born and raised in New York on jazz, recalling being drawn to the jazz of the time like "the children of Hamelin when the piper played his flute." His most memorable and inspirational experience growing up on jazz, he recalls, was the time he played with John Coltrane. "I actually recorded with him when I was a teenager," said Mayer.
And Mayer stuck to his roots on Friday night, playing with a quartet that included (aside from himself on piano) a bass played by Chris Conner, trumpets by Steve Huffsteter and Roy McCurdy on drums. Traditional New York Bebop-style jazz was the focus, and Mayer along with his counterparts had no trouble delivering to the relatively small audience that gathered intimately around the ensemble as the musicians had no trouble constantly keeping things interesting throughout the set.
Each band member played very intuitively off of one another, passing the lead around the group with solo after solo, varying the music in both pace and scale.
However despite the constant improvisation that one would expect at any jazz concert, Mayer's music displayed a bit more structure than one would normally expect. "The school that we loosely adhere to... could be called straight-ahead jazz," said Mayer, "which is a bit more of what you'll find in the New York school of jazz."
"The term 'Bebop' originated in the early 40s," said Mayer, offering a more in-depth explanation of the style of music that he practices most often. "And it was a way that people dressed and people looked. You had the beret and sunglasses, it was a very unique style." But the fact that that individual phenomenon has mostly died out does not mean that there are not people in whom that spirit still dwells, according to Mayer. "That term and that style are still carried forward, because those are the roots of what a lot of people today are still doing. Sometimes they call it 'post-bop,' or 'new-bop,' but terminology is very dangerous. Words are insufficient; they cannot accurately describe what the music sounds like."
When Mayer is not performing for the students of SMC, he plays with his trio with big jazz names such as Benny Golson and Slide Hampton. Additionally, Mayer is a bit of a prolific composer, having put out four albums between 2002 and 2006. Now happily married and residing in Southern California, Mayer also teaches private lessons in jazz and other desired styles of music. "I'm having the time of my life," said Mayer. "And I'm finding new depths. [In Los Angeles] I feel like the new kid on the block, and I have that kind of energy on the bandstand. It's exciting to feel that I'm only now beginning to grow and explore my potential."
And though information on Mayer can be difficult to find, one can easily purchase one of his many albums through amazon.com, or the Reservoir Records website. He also makes an occasional appearance in local newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times. So keep your eyes and ears peeled you jazz fans, and be sure to catch this acclaimed composer when you can; you will not be disappointed.