Forty Below (label)
23 February 2018 (released)
09 March 2018
As one of the doyens of the Blues scene, with a career that spans over 60 years, John Mayall is still playing to admiring and enthusiastic crowds and still playing with sass and verve.
The three are Mayall accompanied by Greg Rzab on bass and Jay Davenport on drums leaving Mayall plenty of room to work out on keyboards, harmonica and especially vocals. The three of them sound all through these performances, from his gigs in Dresden & Stuttgart in March 2017, as though they are enjoying working together and it is pretty clear from the first moments that Mayall is having fun. The man is 84 and if you can’t be having fun playing at that age then what the hell are you doing?
From the outset on Eddie Taylor’s ‘Big Town Playboy’ his harmonica is howling and really capturing the swing of the number. His vocal is actually pretty good for a man of his years – although truth be told I’ve never considered his vocals to be the best part of his skillset – but it really is his harmonica and then on Lightning Hopkins ‘I Feel So Bad’ his piano playing that really sets the speakers alight.
One of my favourite Mayall numbers has always been his version of Lionel Hampton / Dan Burley’s ‘Riding On The L&N’ and I found myself really nodding in time with the performance here – Rzab’s bass lines are superb and Mayall has just the right amount of gruffness in his voice for the number.
The album finishes with an extended version of ‘Congo Square’ with the track playing to a fife & drum beat and really capturing the New Orleans groove of Sonny Landreth.
There are some real subtleties in the playing and the interplay between the three and it rewards listening to a good few times but rewards there are. A fine set from the master.