Jon Mayer is usually the focal point when performing with the eponymously named Jon Mayer Trio, but for the veteran jazz pianist’s upcoming Santa Barbara Jazz Society concert at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club, his trio will be turning into a quartet. On November 11, Mr. Mayer, drummer Roy McCurdy, and bassist Will Lyle will be joined by renowned saxophonist Doug Webb for an afternoon of old jazz standards and Mr. Mayer’s original compositions.
The pianist remained vague about what he and his quartet will play at SOhO, calling the amount of jazz standards available to him and his bandmates “an embarrassment of riches.” However, he has performed with Mr. Webb many times throughout the years and called him “one of the best saxophonists in the country.” Whenever Mr. Webb joins his combo as a fourth player, Mr. Mayer said their setlist tends to revolve around the songs of tenor saxophone legend John Coltrane.
Of the band’s full-time members, Mr. Mayer and Mr. McCurdy have been playing together the longest, for more than twenty years. However, the two octogenarians actually briefly met each other years before they became band mates. In 1968, they met while playing on the road, Mr. Mayer for singer Dionne Warwick and Mr. McCurdy for alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderly’s quintet. With so many of years playing together under their belts, Mr. Mayer and Mr. McCurdy’s musical chemistry is formed to the point that it doesn’t matter too much what charts the pianist ultimately chooses for a gig.
“He and I have been together quite a while so whatever I pull out, he knows the drill,” he said.
The relatively recent newcomer to the band is 25-year-old bass player Will Lyle, who was added to the lineup less than one year ago as per Mr. McCurdy’s recommendation. Under most circumstances, hiring somebody more than five decades his junior as a bass player would give him pause, but Mr. Mayer trusted his drummer’s recommendation because Mr. McCurdy is “very hard on bass players.”
“If he recommends a bass player, then it’s a serious thing,” Mr. Mayer said.
While he finds that bass players Mr. Lyle’s age tend to be limited in their knowledge of the jazz standards repertoire, Mr. Mayer was impressed by how much music the bassist knew how to play. He praised Mr. Lyle as “a very hardworking guy” and someone with “a great historical overview of the music.”
As they say in Mr. Mayer’s home state of New York, the pianist “takes no prisoners” when playing and he stated the music’s high energy and what comes from it is what he loves most about jazz.
“The spontaneity is a key element, the fact that it lets the individual create personal style and that you never get to play a song the same way twice,” he said.
He added, “It’s a vital art form and one that needs to be nurtured and kept alive. Some are entrusted with that mission, and I guess this band is.”
Mr. Mayer’s November 10 performance at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club begins at 1:00 p.m., with doors opening at 12:30 p.m. Tickets for the show will be sold at the door and are $15 for Santa Barbara Jazz Society members, $25 for non-members, and $10 for students. Seating is on a first come, first serve basis.