Shortly after the Bill Mays Trio began playing the Charlie Parker classic, “Star Eyes” as the finale for its Jersey Jazz LIVE! concert on Sunday, October 8, in Madison, NJ, Mays left his seat at the piano and walked over to trumpeter Violet Mujica and guitarist Sam Wagner and invited them to sit in. (Mujica led the Rising Stars opening act trio with Wagner and bassist Julian Rogai – all freshmen Jazz Studies majors at William Paterson University).
Without hesitation, Mujica and Wagner retrieved their instruments and joined the veteran group (which also included bassist Dean Johnson and drummer Ron Vincent) without skipping a beat. It was a rousing finish to a wonderful concert and served to make two things clear: the future of jazz is in good hands, and this music has no generation gap. (Photo, from left: Mays, Johnson, Mujica, Vincent, and Wagner).
Earlier, Mujica, Wagner, and Rogai treated the audience to an opening set that included John Coltrane and Kenny Burrell’s “Freight Trane”, Victor Young’s “Stella by Starlight”, and Benny Golson’s “Whisper Not”.
The Mays Trio played several selections from the pianist’s newest Sunnyside album, Autumn Serenade. Among them: the title track, written by Sammy Gallop and Peter De Rose; Wayne Shorter’s “Fall”; a beautiful arrangement of Bernice Petkere’s “Lullaby of the Leaves”; and “Still Life”, inspired by the water color artist Judy Kirtley.
During the opening act, Mujica pointed out that “Freight Trane” was a contrafact (a composition using chord changes to an existing song, but with a new melody over the top of it) of Tommy Flanagan’s “Blues for Alice”, which itself was a contrafact of Charlie Parker’s “Blues for Alice’s Freight Train”.
Mays, with a nod to the knowledge and savvy of the young musicians, introduced a contrafact of his own — “Son of the East”, based on Brooks Bowman’s “East of the Sun”, which he dedicated to the late pianist Lennie Tristano. Some Songbook standards played by the Mays Trio included David Raksin’s “Laura” and a mesmerizing blend of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Skylark” and Manning Sherwin’s “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.
For those who missed this concert, a video will soon be posted on njjs.org. Next up for Jersey Jazz LIVE!: Vibraphonist Chuck Redd and pianist John Di Martino on Sunday, November 12, preceded by three of the four NJJS scholarship winners: trombonist Richard LaRouech (William Paterson/ East Aurora, NY), trumpeter Banks Sapnar (Temple/Haddonfield, NJ), and tenor saxophonist Joseph Foglia (William Paterson/Raleigh, NC). The scholarship winners will be joined by some jazz veterans, including pianist Oscar Perez, drummer Ron Vincent, and tenor saxophonist Don Braden.-SANFORD JOSEPHSON
Funding for Jersey Jazz LIVE! has been made possible, in part, by funds from Morris Arts through the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/ Department of State, a partner agency of The National Endowment for the Arts.
PHOTO BY MITCHELL SEIDEL