Jon Mayer Quartet
A jazz improvisational version of James Brown's "I feel good" was playing to a packed house and yet something felt wrong.
The bass and the saxophone played with a passion, the piano and the drums complimented each other as they brilliantly transformed a musical grand rock piece into jazz. Unbelievable music was being played by great performers but the majority of the audience did not seem to notice.
When the Jon Mayer Quartet played on April 24, 2009 at the Edye Second Space, the audience consisted of mostly students with notebook and pens in hand, many with a bored look on their faces, forced to come to this show to write up some kind of assignment for a class that shall remain nameless for fear of embarrassment.
The "original Jon Mayer" began the program with the first composition, The Drifter's classic, "On Broadway," which the quartet gave the pop song a jazzy beat, with an infectious bass solo in where bassist Chris Conner seemed to feel the song as he played the instrument.
"These are great jazz compositions, so don't sit there like you're at a funeral," said saxophonist Plas Johnson to the audience when the song ended.
After playing a slow Duke Ellington tune, they played the classic James Brown song with an outstanding saxophone solo with a rapid jazz melody , an upbeat sound, a toe tapping drum beat, and the musicians playing it flawlessly.
George Gershwin's romantic "Embraceable You" was next. Sax man Plas Johnson took a seat as the drums, bass, and piano would only play. The classic standard with its jazzy makeover felt whimsical and fanciful with drummer Fred Weis using jazz brushes and mallets on his drums to play ending with roaring applause from the audience.
"Our next song was recorded originally in 1957 by Ruby and the Romantics, and it's called 'Our Day Will Come,'" Johnson said as the cool tune began which sounded in between classic jazz and a tinge of a bossa nova beat. While the bass and drums kept the beat, the saxophone and the piano went into out of this world solos which made the original song mediocre compared to what the musicians had just created and played.
The last song would be Buddy Johnson's "Since I fell for you" which saxophonist Plas Johnson would talk about. "This song, this blues ballad, I've been playing since I was 16 years old." In which Mayer interjected, "that was last year wasn't it?" making Johnson laugh and say, "No, that was the 40s."
The song, relaxing and intriguing at first, made each musician stand out incredibly, with Mayer's piano work, Johnson's saxophone, Conner's bass plucking, and Weis's percussion beat.
As soon as they finished with roaring applause, one jazz admirer went, "that's it?" with Mayer stating, "That's it."
Each player in the Jon Mayer Quartet has mastered the art of their instrument and their craft, that they play the most difficult songs simply and effortlessly. When they come together, they play a cool fervor of absolute awe-inspiring delectableness of music.
Jeers for the audience. Even though there were some in the audience who were there to listen to the great American art form, applauding through each solo, at times it felt like a class. Whenever Mayer or Johnson would state the title of each song, you could hear the scribbling of pencils around the room as some in the audience, mostly students would write down the song title and the form of the song, looking at the mechanical look of jazz and not the heart and soul of it. Even though a minority of students seemed to be converted and have an ever changing life experience by appreciating the concert of these artists, some were downright rude. Chatting away, texting, sleeping and some even being eerily stationary to toe tapping, danceable jazz tunes.
The music may have been wonderful and for some awe- inspiring, but it is sad to note that for most, the music went in one ear and out the other without being truly appreciated but instead seen as a task.