By MIKE CHAIKEN
As a scout for talent, one could say John Mayall’s track record in music is as impressive as the New York Yankees in baseball.
Among the seminal talents who have played in John Mayall’s bands—from his Bluesbreakers to his self-titled efforts—are guitarists Eric Clapton, Peter Green (of the early Fleetwood Mac), and Mick Taylor (formerly of the Rolling Stones); bassists Jack Bruce (of Cream), Andy Fraser (of Free) and John McVie (of Fleetwood Mac); and drummers Mick Fleetwood (of Fleetwood Mac) and Aynsley Dunbar (who has played with Journey, Jefferson Starship, Frank Zappa, David Bowie, and more).
Mayall, calling from California, said when he looks for musicians to recruit to his bands, he does consider the obvious. Are they good musicians? But there’s more to it than that he said.
But Mayall also considers whether or not he meshes with them personally. Can they be good mates as well as good bandmates?
Mayall is coming to the area to play the Infinity Hall in Hartford on Sept. 10 and Daryl’s House in Pawling, N.Y. on Sept. 15.
Despite the pedigree of the guys he has played with through the years, Mayall said his current crew of musicians—Rocky Athas on guitar, Greg Rzab on bass, and Jay Davenport on drums—is his best band to date.
He said they are amazing musicians. And on stage, “We read each other’s minds.”
And they are musicians who can switch things up on a dime, said Mayall. Each night, the band will change their set list. So if you go to one show, you’ll hear a completely different set the next night.
The set list is usually comprised of songs familiar to the audience as well as songs from the band’s newest album, some older deep tracks, and everything in the middle, said Mayall.
Variety is the key to a John Mayall set list, he said.
Some musicians who have been around as long as Mayall would be content playing the same set ever night on every tour. But he said he can’t imagine just sitting on his laurels and offering up a carbon copy of his show each night.
And he keeps playing, he said, because “it’s great fun.”
Mayall is currently touring behind a new album, “Find A Way to Care,” which arrived five years after his previous studio effort.
The wait between albums was not due to his lack of interest in getting new songs to the fans, said Mayall. His previous label “dragged their feet.”
“I kept pestering them and they wouldn’t come through. And all this time went by,” said Mayall.
It wasn’t until Mayall terminated the record contract was he able to finally bring out new material for his fans.
“Now, we can record albums with proper gaps,” said Mayall of being on his new label.
In fact, he said, he already is in the midst of recording a following up to “Find A Way to Care.”
The title track of “Find A Way to Care” offers a poignant message about current events from the longtime British musician.
“When I can write songs, I write about observations on what is going on in the world,” he said.
The situation in the world right now is “terrible,” said Mayal. “People are being vindictive and warlike with each other.”
And the title track is attempt to make sense of it. It’s a plea to “find a way to care.”
In addition to his album of new material, Mayall also recently released two albums of archival performances from 1967. “John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers– Live in 1967- Volume One” and and “Volume Two.”
The albums feature performances by the shortlived version of John Mayall’s Bluebreakers with Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood, and John McVie. The three shortly after departed to form the original Fleetwood Mac.
The tapes were recorded by club owner Tom Huissen and Mayall had known about their existence for a while. But they weren’t released until now and after Mayall and engineer Eric Corne were able to clean up the recordings for release.
“(Tom Huissen) thought they were so precious and didn’t want to put them out. And he kept them to himself,” said Mayall.
But eventually Huissen decided the time was right to release the tapes and release them to a wider audience. Corne’s label 40 Below provided the perfect avenue for a broader release.
Mayall said the decision was made to release the album partially for historical reasons. “It shows McVie and Fleetwood were a great rhythm section.” And it also showcases Peter Green’s talent as a guitarist whe he was at his “absolute prime,” said Mayall.
John Mayall will be playing the Infinity Hall, 32 Front St., Hartford on Saturday, Sept. 10 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $49 and $64. For more information, go to InfinityHall.com
John Mayall also will be playing Daryl’s House Club, 130 Route 22, Pawling, N.Y. on Thursday, Sept. 15 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $45 and $60. For more information, go to DarylsHouseClub.com
For more information about John Mayall, go to JohnMayall.com