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John Mayall

Saturday, October 18, at Wilbert's.


While the late Alexis Korner more rightly deserves the "Father of British Blues" tag, John Mayall is certainly the U.K.'s most enduring blues artist. And a not-too-shabby talent scout to boot. After his band's lead guitar slot had catapulted Eric Clapton, Peter Green, and Mick Taylor, each in his turn, to greater recognition during the '60s, the venerable guitar/keyboard/harmonica man began changing band formats with virtually every new album. This, in turn, elevated more careers, and revealed Mayall as a restless and inventive musician -- and one of the blues world's most eclectic contributors.

Mayall's original four-piece Bluesbreakers format gave way to a big horn band, which would spawn the inventive British jazz-rock outfit Colosseum. Next came the revolutionary drummerless acoustic quartet featured on Mayall's 1969 release The Turning Point. This group would later make waves on its own as Mark-Almond. The morphing continued and included various established jazz, R&B, and blues players. Through it all, Mayall emulated classic blues artists by using the idiom as a very personal vehicle, as likely to make a social comment as sing about love gone wrong.

Things seem to have settled. Since the mid-'90s, lead guitarist Buddy Whittington and drummer Joe Yuele have been mainstays in an instrumental lineup close to that of the old days. Mayall's recorded work over the last decade is easily among his best. The latest, Stories, fits right in, thanks in no small measure to Whittington's atmospherics and Yuele's solid bottom.

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