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Summer Sketches

Bill Mays Trio

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Album Review

There's beauty in simplicity, and that's the governing logic on pianist Bill Mays' first Palmetto CD (his 11th as a leader). The concept — songs about summer — is simple. So's the lineup — Mays, Martin Wind on bass, and Matt Wilson on drums. Summer Sketches is a soothing piano record, but don't let the placidity fool you. There's a lot of improvisational heft in this trio's ruminations. Mays delivers tightly focused bop phrasing and post-Bill Evans harmonic coloration on tunes like "Summer Night," "Indian Summer" (in a loose 5/4), and "Summer Serenade." (The chirping cricket sound effects that begin "Summer Night" may be a little silly, but big deal — they're over in a jiffy and don't come back.) The ballads, "Estate" and "Once Upon a Summertime," are models of grace and rapport. And "The Things We Did Last Summer," a piano/bass duo with Wind bowing the melody, jumps along with an implied stride feel that breaks up the album's prevailing impressionist mood. Each trio member contributes a tune, and sure enough, it's these three tracks that contain the album's hippest moments. If the album has one flaw, it's that it doesn't include more of this kind of original music. (In this regard, the summer theme is a limitation: How many summer songs can three guys write?) Mays' "Fireflies" is brisk and playful, moving from fast swing to free in a short four minutes. Wilson's "(Gotta Go To) Summer School" is a slow minor blues shuffle replete with the kind of quirkiness the drummer is known for. And Wind's "Early August," perhaps the album's finest specimen, is a flowing, even-eighth piece distinguished by a row of syncopated, ascending chords played in rousing unison by the full trio. It's class. ~ David R. Adler, Rovi


Born: 05 February 1944 in Sacramento, CA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

A fine pianist, Bill Mays has often worked behind the scenes, leading to him being a somewhat overlooked jazz improviser. Mays worked in Los Angeles as a studio musician from the late '60s on, accompanying Sarah Vaughan (1972-1973) and Al Jarreau (1975), but mostly doing session work. In the early '80s, he began to record jazz as a sideman with Howard Roberts, Bud Shank, Bobby Shew, Road Work Ahead, and Mark Murphy. He recorded a duet date with Red Mitchell for ITI (1982) and led a quintet album...
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Summer Sketches, Bill Mays Trio
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