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Bill Mays: cd, dvd, live performance reviews

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Bill Mays: CD, DVD, live performance reviews

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Bill Mays SOLO!” (DVD)
Jazz Journal (UK), June 2010, Page 18, By Mark Gardner

Mays At The Movies” (CD)
Mittelland Zeitung” MZ & "Aargauer Zeitung" AZ, News dailies, Switzerland. June 6, 2010, by Jürg Sommer
Movies for the Ears

Highly respected New York pianist Bill Mays is considered a true "Renaissance Man" on the jazz scene, i.e. Mays is respected as a master in all areas of his widely spread musical activities: composer, arranger, bandleader, studio musician for all styles of music etc. The current "Mays At The Movies" CD brings him back to square one of his impressive career that in his beginning led to a busy job as a studio musician in Hollywood where he was playing in countless movie soundtracks. Supported by bassist Peter Washington and Billy Drummond (dm) on this CD the Mays Trio improvises over the leader's fascinating original "Judy" as well as eight movie classics that became jazz standards. The Mays trio on this recording is no less than "magic in action" offering the listener a true acoustic movie: cinema for the ear!

Bill Mays Trio: Mays At The Movies (SteepleChase) (CD can be ordered at, Rating 5 stars


Mays At The Movies - AllAboutJazz, March 13, 2010, by Dr. Judith Schlesinger

RIFFTIDES, December 23, 2009, by Doug Ramsey


HOT HOUSE Magazine, December, 2009, by George Kanzler

Bud Shank/Bill Mays: “Beyond the Red Door” (CD)
Jazziz Magazine, June 20, 2009, by James Rossi

Inventions Trio: “Delaware River Suite” (CD)
AllAboutJazz, June 28, 2009, by Ken Dryden

Newark Star-Ledger, January 16, 2009, by Zan Stewart

UNUSUAL COMBO “Delaware River Suite” Inventions Trio (No Blooze Music #02)

Pianist and composer Bill Mays’ Inventions Trio – with cellist Alisa Horn and trumpeter and flugelhornist Marvin Stamm--offers beguiling originals and covers in an ace, if unusual, combination. The heart of the group’s second CD is the 7-movement title suite, which begins with Mays’ spoken introduction on his life-long affinity for rivers – including the Delaware, near which he lives. On the perky “Rapid Ride at Skinner’s Falls,” the players deliver criss-crossing, contrapuntal lines, creating a beaming sonic landscape. Mays’ firm touch yields rich, ringing notes, Stamm’s warm, expressive tone buoys his smart ideas, and Horn uses her bow to issue resounding textures. “Float” is free-form leaning; “Shohola Hoedown & Campfire” has a bright, country-esque flavor. Mays’ rumbling piano lines underpin “Rollin’ Down the Water Gap.” The partnering of two classic bop blues variants – Miles Davis’ “Sippin’ at Bells” and Bud Powell’s “Dance of the Infidels”--is spot-on. Jobim’s “Zingaro” has a lovely, delicate quality, as does Villa-Lobos’ “Bachianas Brasilieras #5.”

Mays’ trio appears January 23 and 24 at The Kitano, 66 Park Ave. at 38th Street, New York; (212-885-7000;

Inventions Trio: “Fantasy” (CD)
AllAboutJazz, March 8, 2008, by Ken Dryden

Downbeat Magazine – December, 2007 (4 stars) by David French

Bebop meets baroque (as well as impressionism, romanticism and modernism) on this rich and playful classical crossover CD. Mays, in duet with trumpeter Marvin Stamm, and trio with Stamm and classical cellist Alisa Horn, performs an original suite, “Fantasy,” as well as melodies chosen (almost all from the classical repertoire) for their “beautiful melodies and rich grist for improvising.”

The duets offer the clear highlights. On the Borodin-derived jazz standard “Baubles, Bangles And Beads” and George Gershwin’s “Prelude #2” they achieve a conversational drift across genre lines and a sunny sound that recalls some of Chet Baker and Russ Freeman’s work. The closer has them sailing through Bach’s “Inventions #8,” giving way to Charlie Parker’s “Ah-Leu-Cha.” With the addition of Horn’s cello on “Fantasy,” Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise” and Debussy’s “Girl With The Flaxen Hair,” the trio sounds more scripted, more dramatic and less fun. “Fantasy,” at more than 20 minutes, is lovely, with many sections and moods, but at times the stirring melodies and genre mixing give it the feel of film music. On the whole, however, it’s an unusual and unusually easy-on-the-ears disc. Its pristine recording and warm mix of voices would make an obvious treat for audiophiles.
JazzTimes Magazine – November, 2007, by Steve Futterman

file://localhost/Inventions Press Kit /Jazz | JazzTimes Magazine > Reviews > CD Reviews.webarchive

The improvisational element so vital to jazz may not be an a priori feature of classical music, but rare is the alert jazz musician who doesn’t appreciate the melodic and harmonic riches to be found within the earlier genre.

Pianist Bill Mays is one such player, and with Fantasy, he explores the confluence of jazz and classical musics with unpretentious intelligence. His cohorts, trumpeter and flugelhornist Marvin Stamm and cellist Alisa Horn, are essential factors in the album’s sagacious mix of compositional rigor and improvisational ardor. While the classically trained Horn successfully reveals her inner urge to venture beyond the written notes, Stamm, the experienced jazzman, makes splendid use of his dazzling tone and robust delivery to bring themes to life. Mays, for his part, seems delightfully free of proving himself worthy of either genre; he just goes his own confident way as player, composer and arranger.

The album rightfully draws its title from the centerpiece of the project: a three-movement fantasy that weaves Mays’ attractive melodies together with intergrated solos by the trio mates. Other than this opus, the threesome only confers on two other performances: luscious adaptations of Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise” and Debussy’s popular piece, “Girl with the Flaxen Hair.”

The remaining tracks, recorded nearly four years before the trio performances, mate Mays and Stamm. “Baubles, Bangles, and Beads,” the Broadway standard culled from a theme by Borodin, and Gershwin’s “Prelude #2” receive bright renditions from two players obviously accustomed to each other’s ways yet still juiced by the interaction. The most ambitious duet pairs Bach’s “Invention #8” with Charlie Parker’s “Ah-Leu-Cha” (among smatterings of other bop classics), drawing on the contrapuntal natures of both compositions. Thanks to Mays and Stamm, Bach and Bird get along swimmingly.
Jazziz Magazine – October, 2007, by Ross Boissoneau

Pianist Bill Mays knows and appreciates the history of jazz, but he’s no hidebound traditionalist. Throughout his career, he’s shown a penchant for exploring different combinations, and that’s certainly the case with The Inventions Trio. On the opening “Baubles, Bangles and Beads,” he and trumpeter Marvin Stamm engage in a playful musical conversation, and Stamm is a joy throughout. His playing has seldom sounded so effortless.

The third member of the trio, cellist Alisa Horn, makes her bow introducing the following “Vocalise” by Rachmaninoff. The three members balance one another nicely, with Mays exhibiting a mastery of the keyboard without dominating the music. Horn is the most delicate of the three, while Stamm’s playing varies from bright to wistful, sometimes within the same phrase.

The three movements of Mays’ “Fantasy” find the trio moving even further into classical chamber jazz, with Stamm employing a mute, then playing straight as he explores the melody. In the second movement, his growling and muted lines play counterpoint to Horn’s inquisitive cello before Mays joins in to gently guide the proceedings. Stamm and Horn take turns leading the way, with Mays always offering gentle support.

The program also includes Gershwin, classicists Scriabin and Debussy, and finally, those all-time tag-team favorites, Johnny Bach and Charlie Parker. It’s the concluding Bach/Bird medley “Invention #8/Ah-Leu-Cha” that brings things back from rarefied territory to swinging jazz, with the trio once again pared down to the duo of Mays and Stamm. It’s when these players are at their jazzy best that the disc is most successful.
ALL MUSIC GUIDE – September 24, 2007, by Scott Yanow

Pianist Bill Mays and trumpeter Marvin Stamm have been longtime friends, and have worked together on an occasional basis through the years. Cellist Alisa Horn considers Stamm to be her mentor, and she was introduced by the trumpeter to Mays in 2005. This CD has four trumpet or flugelhorn/piano duets from 2001 and four numbers (including the three-part “Fantasy”) by the trio from 2005. Mays and Stamm have played classical duets as part of their repertoire in concert and, since Horn comes from classical music (though she is working at building up her improvising skills), the music often utilizes classical melodies including selections from Rachmaninov, Debussy, Scriabin and Gershwin. In two cases, the pieces are medleys that match together complementary classical and jazz pieces. These renditions of “Baubles, Bangles and Beads,” “Vocalise,” and Gershwin’s “Prelude No. 2” are particularly memorable and Bill Mays’ inventive and tasteful arrangements, along with the individual solos, make this a highly recommended disc.

RIFFTIDES – Doug Ramsey on Jazz and Other Matters – September 4, 2007

-excerpted from “Hello Cello”

Bill Mays and the Inventions Trio, “Fantasy” (Palmetto)

Alisa Horn is the cellist in pianist Bill Mays’ new group, the Inventions Trio. She is a protégé of trumpeter Marvin Stamm, the other member of the trio. I wrote nearly a year ago about Mays convincing classical string players that they could swing when he recruited the cellist and violinist of the Finisterra Trio to perform Bach’s “Two-part Invention #8” with an overlay of Charlie Parker’s “Ah-Leu-Cha.” Horn has been convinced, too. The conviction didn’t come easily. She is added to the duo in which for several years Mays and Stamm have been melding jazz and classical music. A classical cellist ingrained with the notion that improvisation should be avoided at all costs because it could lead to (gasp) mistakes, she was terrified at the recording session. Here’s some of what Horn wrote in a news release that came with the advance copy of The Inventions Trio CD.

What if I play a WRONG NOTE? During the session I almost had a breakdown worrying about a shift that I had “missed” during an improvisation. No one else in the studio even heard the mistake or noticed it at all and these are some of the most experienced and well-trained ears in the business! I was almost in tears, worried over this horrible imperfection. Bill and Marvin looked at me and just said, “No one is ever perfect and that isn’t what this is about. Screw it!” Since that moment, I have a new outlook on my music and the meaning of “perfect” has changed. Now I understand that perfection is an individual’s perception of what the music is and this idea applies to both classical and jazz styles of playing. Horn is exquisite in the trio numbers on the CD, which include Debussy’s “Girl With The Flaxen Hair” and Mays’ three-movement “Fantasy for Cello, Piano and Trumpet,” an important new work. She is impassioned in Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise,” and has a stunning introductory moment in the first movement of the “Fantasy.” Mays and Stamm, collaborators for years, have developed an empathy that verges on the mysterious. Their duo numbers on this album are among their finest work. In the trio pieces Alisa Horn complements their magic. She does not sound like a newcomer to improvisation.

The Inventions Trio will be a part of The Seasons Fall Festival next month, along with James Moody, Miguel Zenon, David Friesen, Karrin Allyson, Matt Wilson, Martin Wind, the Finisterra Trio and the Yakima Symphony Orchestra. I look forward to hearing them in live performance.

AllAboutJazz, August 28, 2007, by Dr. Judith Schlesinger

ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE – Critic’s Playlist – Aug. 24, 2007, reviewed by Jack Garner

Bill Mays and the Inventions Trio, “Fantasy” (Palmetto)

The lyrical pianist has formed a new trio with the unusual configuration of a trumpeter (Marvin Stamm) and a cellist (Alis Horn) to explore the connections between improvised jazz and structured classical music, what an earlier jazz generation called “ThirdStream.” The resulting chamber jazz is eloquent and quite lovely, with a stronger rhythm foundation than you might expect from a small ensemble with no conventional bass-drums rhythm section. The material features a wide spectrum, from Rachmaninov and Debussy to Gershwin and Mays himself.


Listening Post/Brief reviews of select releases
Bill Mays and the Inventions Trio, “Fantasy” (Palmetto). Trumpet, piano and cello is not your everyday jazz trio. That much is certain. That’s why this disc begins without Alisa Horn’s cello so that you can contemplate pianist Bill Mays and trumpet player Marvin Stamm playing “Baubles, Bangles and BeaDs” in a tradition that probably goes back to Earl Hines and Louis Armstrong playing “Weather Bird Rag.” But then Horn joins in and the strange but lovely ensemble richness presents itself with an improvisation on Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise” and provides some odd but compelling stylistic back-and-forth between jazz and classical music throughout the rest of the disc. And all of it is shapely, graceful and completely convincing. ★★★( Jeff Simon)

__________________________________________________________________________HARTFORD COURANT, August 10, 2007, OWEN MCNALLY

BILL MAYS, THE INVENTIONS TRIO, Fantasy, Palmetto Records

Never once sounding pompous or academic, pianist/composer Bill Mays brilliantly blends chamber music and jazz with his Inventions Trio, injecting robust new life into familiar classical themes, jazz standards and original works.

Improvising on themes by Bach and Bird, rocking on Rachmaninov, jamming on Gershwin or swinging on Scriabin is all fair game for Mays and his nimble-witted co-inventors, the noted jazz trumpeter/flugelhornist Marvin Stamm and the classical cellist Alisa Horn.

The loveliest of the CD's nine tracks--each an exquisite balance of composition and improvisation--is the fresh take on Debussy's "Girl with the Flaxen Hair." It's as light-filled and wrapped in atmospheric, domestic serenity as a portrait by the Dutch Master Jan Vermeer.

Absolutely the most fun is the swinging, crisply contrapuntal marriage between a theme by Bach and Charlie Parker's bebop classic, "Ah-Leu-Cha."

Mays' a cappella solo on this hip hybrid is the perfect illustration of the blood-link between the surging, life-celebrating energies of Bach's keyboard music and the great Bud Powell's equally miraculous bebop piano inventions.

Horn's dark, resonant cello adds tonal texture and heightens evocative moods, as on Mays' three-movement tour de force, "Fantasy for Cello, Trumpet and Piano." And, yes, the classically trained Horn can fit quite comfortably into a swinging groove, even in the extremely swift company of these two jazz masters of spontaneously shaped music.


BILL MAYS-Inventions Trio/Fantasy: With nothing to prove, after four decades of solid innovation and hard work, Mays simply wants to have fun.  Always adept at mixing jazz and classical, the piano man does it again, but this time, he don’t care if he’s taken seriously.  Not to say this set sounds tossed off, far from it, but Mays and co-horts are playing for the fun of it, using some various serious pieces as the starting point and letting things roll from there.  Fusing Bach with Charlie Parker is an example of this fusion.  After having made his bones by playing everything with everybody everywhere, he’s earned the right to have a busman’s holiday that turns out to be yet another tour de force.  Jazzbos should take note.

Audiophile Audition 2007

When I read that leading pianist Bill Mays' new group was created to explore the intersection of chamber music and jazz I was immediately interested. He is one of the few jazz artists who sometimes includes classical repertory into a jazz context - in common with people such as Roger Kellaway's Cello Quartet, jazz cellists such as Oscar Pettiford and Fred Katz, and going back to the Swing Era - the many big bands and groups like John Kirby's which often played classical themes.

In the 1970s Mays was asked by jazz flutist Bud Shank to write a five-movement flute suite, which he did. (Odd that Shank now wants nothing to do with the flute anymore, calling his old group with Laurindo Almeida "The LA Snore.") In the 1980s Mays did a jazz arrangement of The Nutcracker Suite - which Ellington had also done earlier. He's also written sax quartets, works for the Aureole chamber ensemble, and scores for numerous TV shows and films. Trumpeter Stamm appears as soloist with symphony orchestras and as a member of the George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band. Cellist Horn's entire background until recently was entirely in the classical world. She played in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and as principal cello in the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra. She reveals in the album's note booklet how scary it was for a classically-trained musician to face

improvisation. Horn was sure she played notes wrongly until her compatriots assured her there was really no specific wrong or right.

This is a rather unusual makeup for a trio playing any sort of music, but it works beautifully - might I even say inventingly? - on the nine tracks. The Rachmaninov Vocalise has been transcribed dozens of different ways - in fact there is an RCA Red Seal CD compiling a bunch of them. The Trio's version is one of the finest I've heard. Gershwin's Second Prelude for Piano has also come in for some unusual transcriptions, and the Trio's is highly successful here. Other delights are the Scriabin Prelude and Debussy's Girl with the Flaxen Hair. May's own extended Fantasy - the disc's title tune - mixes the two genres with great skill and reminded me in some parts of Claude Bolling's chamber-jazz Suites.

Live At Jazz Standard” (CD)

French News, no. 199/December, 2005 (

Lady D’s Jazz Corner by Domi Truffandier

I know what you’re going to say: “Oh no, not again”. But, yes, here he is again, our old friend Bill Mays – am I to blame if he’s been releasing CD after CD of excellent music lately? Let’s take a look, then, at ‘Bill Mays Trio Live at Jazz Standard’ (Palmetto Records PM2112), recorded in December 2004 by Mays’ regular trio, featuring Martin Wind on bass and Matt Wilson on drums.

What do we see? Behind Judy Kirtley’s fine cover photos (her website is well worth a visit at, a nice collection of, well, standards, plus a couple of Mays originals. And, more importantly, what do we hear? Modern bebop with the Bill Mays touch, which means plenty of toying around with metrics and harmonies (‘Have you met miss jones?' ‘Willow weep for me’), clever arrangements, tongue-in-cheek humour, a constant interaction between the three musicians and frantic applause by an enthusiastic crowd.

I loved the album throughout, but confess a weakness for ‘Squeeze me’, which features some nice bass work by Wind, both behind Mays’ pretty lines and during his own solo. Plus, there’s a laid-back, gently bouncing atmosphere about this tune, which is simply exhilarating.

And, there’s so much more to enjoy on’Live at the jazz standared’! For instance, Mays’ own dark, boisterous ‘Music house’ or a flawless rendition of Monk’s ‘Let’s call this’, interspersed with typical Monkish lines and fragments from some of his other compositions. Bill’s own ’Euterpe’ and ‘How are things in Glocca Morra?’ are showcases for the pianist’s more lyrical side, while Wind is once again awesome on Ornette’s ‘When will the blues leave?’ and, with the bow, on Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Smile’ – one of my all-time favourite jazz standards…especially when it is played as beautifully and with as much feeling and creativity as it is here.

So, thanks for the music, guys – when’s the next one coming?!

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