Autumn Serenade

SSC1695 2023-02-17

Track List

Autumn Serenade - 4:34
Autumn With Vivaldi - 3:07
Fall - 5:00
Lullaby of the Leaves - 4:41
Still Life - 4:48
‘Tis Autumn - 4:06
Early Autumn - 4:50
Autumn Nocturne / Autumn Nocturne - 8:06
Autumn / When October Goes - 6:39


Bill Mays - piano, vocal, logic digital orchestra
Dean Johnson - contrabass
Ron Vincent - drums
Judy Kirtley - vocals
Matt Balitsaris - acoustic guitar

Fall is a special time of year. The carefree vibrations of summer slow to a meditative pace allowing healing and regrouping to begin. For pianist Bill Mays, fall gives him a feeling of spiritual rebirth along with time for introspection and reflection. Mays has dedicated his heartfelt new recording, Autumn Serenade, to the season.

Mays has long been regarded as a musician’s musician among jazz cognoscenti. For 15 years, he worked in the studios of Hollywood and with the West Coast’s leading musicians, from Frank Sinatra to Frank Zappa. Mays moved to the East Coast in 1984 to focus on his jazz playing, becoming a fixture on the New York scene, including long stints with Gerry Mulligan and Phil Woods.

The trio has been Mays’s go to ensemble for many years. He presented three albums on Palmetto with bassist Martin Wind and drummer Matt Wilson. Later, Mays established his intriguing Inventions Trio with trumpeter Marvin Stamm and cellist Alisa Horn. For his 40th recording as a leader, Mays recruited two musicians with whom he has shared more than 35 years of musical experience: bassist Dean Johnson and drummer Ron Vincent.

Mays on the trio: “We have a real spiritual connection, born of many varied musical situations and off-the-bandstand friendships. They’ve been there for me when I was going through some dark times. I value their deep musicality, attention to detail, technical perfection, and the ability to not just play their instruments, but to color and ‘co-arrange’ with me to help shape the direction of each piece.”

During the pandemic, Mays composed quite a bit of music and reached out to Johnson and Vincent, reigniting their creative spark and furthering their rapport. Mays began to consider recording an album of pieces about autumn. The vast repository of jazz standards contains a multitude of songs that focus on the season and Mays and his trio created a master list to cull from.

The pianist has been a regular accompanist for many well-known vocalists, a pursuit that he has enjoyed immensely. On a Morgana King session, Mays was teaching the beloved singer the verse of a song by singing to her. She insisted that he join her on the tune and that became his singing debut. Further encouraged by friends Jimmy Rowles, Red Mitchell, and Bob Dorough, Mays continued to build up his vocal chops; he includes a number of vocal pieces amongst his repertory, including two on Autumn Serenade.