John Mayall - harmonica, vocals, guitar, electric piano; Blue Mitchell - trumpet, flugelhorn; Red Holloway - tenor sax, flute, electronic sax; Freddy Robinson - guitar; Victor Gaskin - bass; Keef Hartley - drums
Acknowledged as one of the godfathers of the British blues scene, John Mayall began making his mark during the '60s British Blues Boom with his Bluesbreakers, an electric blues band that at different times included such future guitar greats as Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, and Harvey Mandel. For his appearance at the 1973 Newport Jazz Festival, Mayall assembled an outfit that organically fused blues and jazz and featured such noted jazz musicians as trumpeter Blue Mitchell, guitarist Freddy Robinson, and tenor sax great Red Holloway. They performed material from group's 1972 Polygram release Jazz Blues Fusion.
They open with a chugging medium tempo jam number dubbed "Blues No. 1," which features Mayall on electric piano and harmonica and showcases Holloway on the Varitone electronic saxophone. Robinson, an accomplished guitarist from Chicago who perfectly straddles the blues-jazz fence, embellishes his solo with some fleet-fingered licks and a few references to Grant Green along the way, while bassist Victor Gaskin stretches out on a long, exploratory electric bass solo. Everyone gets a solo taste on this exuberant opener, including Mitchell on trumpet, Mayall on harmonica, and Hartley on drums.
"Country Road" is a lazy Jimmy Reed-styled boogie number (which would later appear on 1973's Ten Years Are Gone) that highlights the blues-inflected jazz playing of guitarist Robinson. Red Holloway is featured playing some robust bar walking tenor sax lines on the funky shuffle blues "Got to the This Way" before clicking on his Varitone function to get an octave divider effect. Trumpeter Mitchell plays a sterling high note trumpet solo on "My Time Will Come Again," which also features a unison scatting and Fender Rhodes electric piano solo by Mayall. His band concludes this Newport Jazz Festival set at the Philharmonic Hall with the moody minor key "Drifting," which features Holloway on flute (and which would also appear on Ten Years Are Gone).
An irrepressible force of nature, Mayall continued to tour internationally and record through the '70s, '80s, '90s, and well into the new millennium. And at age 76, backed by a new young crew of blues-hounds, he shows no sign of slowing down, with his latest release being 2009's Tough and his itinerary being packed with a string of one-nighters through 2011. Nearly 50 years after his first recording (1965s John Mayall Plays John Mayall on the Decca label), this godfather of British blues is still going strong. (Milkowski)