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John Mayer Trio - Try! John Mayer Trio Live in Concert Print E-mail
Tuesday, 22 November 2005

John Mayer Trio

format: 16-bit Stereo CD
label: Columbia
release year: 2006
performance: 7
sound: 7
reviewed by: Dan MacIntosh

Image It’s sometimes hard to take John Mayer’s “serious musician” trio set here, well, seriously, especially with all the women screaming in the background between songs. You still must at least give the guy kudos for taking a chance on this instrumentally-centered music – especially since it comes at a time when Mayer is best known for his good looks and gentle singer/songwriter charm. Nevertheless, he doesn’t quite measure up to the rock trio comparisons – such as with Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience – which Mitchell Cohen makes in this package’s CD notes. He may not have attained rock power trio greatness with this release, but he definitely has the spirit of that whole thing down pat.

There’s no disputing that Mayer is shooting for a different (meaning prior) era here. This work may have been released on Columbia Records in 2006, but the big bold lettering and solid color scheme of its CD cover makes it a dead ringer for those great Atlantic Records jazz releases from the ‘60s. Mayer’s two covers in this live set are also throwbacks, as he takes on Hendrix’s “Wait Until Tomorrow,” as well as Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman.”

If you only associate Mayer with gentle-voiced come-ons, such as “Your Body is a Wonderland,” much of the music here may come as a revelation. First and foremost, Mayer’s voice is consistently gruff, falling somewhere between Stevie Ray Vaughan and John Hiatt. Secondly, this singer lets his guitar do much of the talking. With chunky, blues-based rhythms, Mayer often both looses and loses himself in long, inspired electric guitar solo stretches.

Mayer, who once studied at the esteemed Berklee College of Music, does nothing to embarrass himself within this challenging instrumental context. One imagines it will take time for this pop idol to be taken seriously as a musician, however. Furthermore, it’s doubtful that his doe-eyed fan base even gets what he’s doing with this particularly artistic and retro side road. Nevertheless, John Mayer’s venture into gutsy hard rock is a successful one.

The crystal clear sound of this disc reveals that it is by no means a spontaneous soundboard recording. If it weren’t for the aforementioned screaming girl sounds, you might not even guess that it is live. Instead, this release captures three fine musicians (including bassist Pino Palladino and drummer Steve Jordon) jamming together effortlessly. It’s not just live, it’s alive.

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