“Mays was a commanding presence at the piano, rolling through lines that raised echoes of
Earl Hines and Duke Ellington.” John Wilson, New York Times
“Well-crafted, filled with intriguing melodic counter phrases, his choruses unfolded with the
logic and the connectiveness of preconceived compositions.” Don Heckman, Los Angeles
“One of the masters of color and touch among today’s pianists…” Doug Ramsey, JazzTimes
Jazz pianist extraordinaire Bill Mays returns to Jaqua Concert Hall on tour with his trio (Bill on piano and vocals, Dean Johnson on bass and Ron Vincent on drums) in support of his just-released CD, Autumn Serenade (Sunnyside Records, Feb 17, 2023).
Fall is a special time of year. The carefree vibrations of summer slow to a meditative pace allowing healing and regrouping to begin. For legendary jazz pianist Bill Mays, fall gives him a feeling of spiritual rebirth along with time for introspection and reflection. Thoughts of autumn usually imagine changing leaves, color temperatures, and a meditative hush. The music that Bill Mays and his trio have compiled for his 40th recording, Autumn Serenade (Sunnyside: Feb 17, 2023), proves to be a perfect soundtrack for this contemplative season. Bill's notes on the project:
"La-de-da, de-da-de-dum, 'tis Autumn." Indeed! What might at first seem a playful, if not blase, simissal of the season actually conveys to me, upon further reflection, a deep sense of melancholy. Fall seems sad, yet is one of my favorite times of year.
I first heard "Autumn Serenade" on a John Coltrane/Johnny Harman album, and was transfixed. Written in 1945, it's still fresh today. I never deamed that Vivaldi and I would be collaborating, but that we did! His 1720 hit from The Seasons begged for a "B" section after the opening theme, so I came up with the bridge. Thus, "Autumn With Vivaldi". I'm not sure what Wayne Shorter may have been referencing in his "Fall", but when it first appeared on Miles Davis' Nefertiti I was intrigued. Bernice Petkere was a composer for vaudeville, radio and films, and I've always loved her "Lullby Of The Leaves" since hearing Jimmy Rowles play it many years ago. "Still Life", a triple entendre, was inspired by a beautiful watercolor by artist Judy Kirtley (who also makes a vocal cameo on the last track). When I first heard pianist/vocalist Bob Dorough sing Henry Nemo's "'Tis Autumn" I fell in love with the piece. Dorough, along with Rowles, Dave Frishberg, and Red Mitchell, was among those who inspired me to sing. "Early Autumn" (part of Ralph Burns' Summer Sequence suite) was a hit vehicle for the sax section of Woody Herman's Band. There are two "Authumn Nocturne" pieces: the first a modern tone-poem by Bob James, the second from film composer Josef Myrow (I became aware of it when I played with Phil Woods and love it's chromaticism and uneven bar lengths in the form). Maltby and Shire's "Autumn" laments the passing of the season and lost love, as does Manilow and Mercer's iconic hit from 1984, "When October Goes". I had the pleasure of playing the piano on Manilow's rendition and have since said "One day I've gotta sing that!" I hope you enjoy this fall collection. The interplay and camaraderie with co-creators Johnson and Vincent highlight the forty-plus yearhistory we've shared musically. I can't thank them enough. A high five to the patience and expertise of recordist Matt Balitsaris (and thanks for his Brazilian guitar work on the last track). -- Bill Mays
This concert is eligible for The Shedd's Free Jazz & Classical Music Tickets for Youth program, which makes a limited number of free admission tickets to select 2022-23 Shedd Classical and Jazz concerts available to youth high school and younger. The program is made possible by support from Friends of Classical Music at The Shedd. Contact The Shedd Ticket Office for information.
College students w/ current student ID receive a 50% discount.