LAJC Last Saturday Series, July 25: Reunion Project, Matt Mayhall Trio

By Gary Fukushima

The end of the month seems to happen pretty fast these days.  Our fourth installment of our little series at Curve Line Space is upon us, and we are pleased to present this month two more shows by some talented and creative individuals.


The Reunion Project is the aptly-described name of a band of two fellows who first met and played a long time ago.  Guitarist John Ehlis and saxophonist Tony White were classmates at UC Riverside when they started playing duo together, eventually forming around them a small community of improvising musicians.  After college, Ehlis moved out to New York, where he became active among some of the leading avant-garde jazz improvisors in New York and elsewhere, including John Tchicai, Oliver Lake, Joseph Jarman (Art Ensemble of Chicago), and Francis Wong (Asian Improv Arts).  White stayed in Los Angeles and devoted his life to music education, becoming one of the leading figures in preserving music and art opportunities for kids as the director of the Beyond the Bell program for the Los Angeles Unified School District.  He has the privilege of leading the LAUSD All-City Marching Band in the Rose Parade every year, and also conducts the All-City Jazz Band at the annual Playboy Jazz Festival.  As a performer, White has played with many of the leading figures in jazz, including Lionel Hampton, Gerald Wilson, Buddy Collette, and Poncho Sanchez.  Despite the years gone by and the vast land mass between the two, Ehlis and White remained close, and a few years ago they decided to commit to playing together again.  The Reunion Project has played in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York, the latter in 2013 at Shapeshifter Lab with legendary saxophonist Joseph Jarman.  Their music is heavily influenced by freer-jazz pioneers such as Don Cherry, Yusef Lateef and Jim Pepper, and it’s not uncommon to hear compositions by those and other like-minded artists sprinkled in with their own writing.  Assisting Ehlis and White in the Reunion Project are drummer Ray McNamara, bassist Mike Alvidrez, and pianist Gary Fukushima (dislcaimer: that’s me).



Drummer Matt Mayhall has become an integral fixture in the creative music scene in Los Angeles, extending beyond jazz to the fertile imaginative indie-rock community.  He has played and toured with Spain (a band lead by Josh Haden, son to the late great Charlie Haden), and offered drum support for a diverse and talented group of artists, including Anthony Wilson, Adam Benjamin, Petra Haden, Susanna Hoffs, and Emmy Rossum.  He’s currently touring with The Both, a band co-led by Aimee Mann and Ted Leo.  His working instrumental trio features guitarist Jeff Parker, who spent much of his earlier career in Chicago and New York, working with esteemed groups like the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and the Brian Blade Fellowship.  He’s also played with many of the world’s best musicians, including Dave Douglas, Joshua Redman, Nels Cline, Daniel Lanois, Andrew Bird, and Meshell Ndegeocello.  Rounding out the group is bassist Paul Bryan, who is Mayhall’s bandmate in The Both (and a longtime collaborator with Aimee Mann).  Bryan has also played extensively with Lucinda Williams and Elvis Costello, and also worked with many household names including Norah Jones, Sam Phillips, Billy Preston, and Mavis Staples.  Mayhall’s rock-influenced improvised music draws upon the best attributes of both jazz and music that isn’t jazz.

Both of these groups are very unique in their construction and approach to music.  Should be a fascinating and fun evening.


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