John Mayer channeled all of his playing eras into this solo – and it became one of his greatest guest spots of all time.
On the evening of February 4, 2020, fans converged on the Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles, California for the second and final night of the famous “David Ryan Harris And Friends” jam show.
At the time, attendees knew that Harris, along with his stellar house band – featuring Isaiah Sharkey, Terence Clark, Sean Hurley and other session heavyweights – would provide stellar entertainment for a Tuesday night.
What they didn’t know, however, was that “And Friends” also featured John Mayer, and that Mayer would end the night after playing arguably his greatest jam session ever.
The backdrop for Mayer’s exhibition was Yesterday’s stop. A track from Harris’ 2006 album The bittersweetthe soulful air was perhaps always going to get the most out of Mayer’s game: swung with enough room to roam, Yesterday’s stop was a rocking song that jumped from C#7 to F#7, with the occasional G#7 thrown in for good measure.
After all, since Gravity, one of Mayer’s greatest pieces right behind Dancing slowly in a room on fire, pivots mostly around G and C – much like 2021’s popular two-chord solo outro I guess I just want — it felt like the stars were aligning for a Mayer improv of the ages.
And that’s exactly what happened. “Did I just attend the greatest jam session that ever took place?” wrote a commenter on the 22-minute video, which has had 1.3 million views at the time of writing.
Without a doubt, they were referring to the whole experience, which featured one of the best live assemblies of the modern jam era. But from a guitar perspective, it’s Mayer’s contribution – in particular, his jaw-dropping two-minute solo at 10:25 in the video above – that stood out in particular.
Conveniently divided into four segments, this is an achievement that spans an era for the bloody rock star, who merged his blues trio chops from Try (2005), loose swing feeling of born and raised (2012), melody of continuum (2006) and the various techniques he has honed throughout his repertoire into an almost perfect whole.
Summoned by Harris via a waiting for the world to change encore, Mayer begins his solo in position four of his Nebula PRS Silver Sky for the characteristic finger and thumb action that emerged in his early years, working his way into improvisation with the genre of minor/major pentatonic bursts and raking licks that dominated his Try blues trio album and where is the light live recording.
Clearly a more refined bluesman these days, Mayer enters the second phase of his assault on the fretboard with a collection of chromatics that set up his BB King style curves, further colored with whole notes and then some embellishments that put showcasing Mayer’s surgical style. precision.
At this point, Hurley, Harris, Sharkey, Clark and co feel Mayer’s momentum, and as the instrumentation swells, so does the guitarist’s solo. A few more urgent major pentatonic twists and a breathless drive down the fretboard later, Mayer attacks a high C# and reaches the end of his effort.
As Mayer reaches this point, the crowd is in full voice – some are no doubt on their feet – Hurley’s mouth is opened in a triumphant scream and Mayer stays totally in the zone: a man on a mission to deliver the goods.
Mayer’s best solo? Maybe. One of his top five? Certainly.
Safe to say the screening had a lasting impact. Search “John Mayer Hotel Cafe solo” on YouTube and you’ll be greeted with a number of covers and tutorials. You might even spot a reaction video from online guitar teacher Michael Palmisano – posted above – asking “WTF? Greatest band ever?”, before praising Mayer’s lead contribution at length.
But it’s not just Mayer’s solo that gets the applause. Sharkey, who has the difficult task of keeping up with the aforementioned effort, delivers an equally knockout lead, while Clark commands the entire 22-minute jam with his responsive drum beats.
The rhythmic sensibilities exhibited by Mayer are also worth a mention. The blues-pop entertainer spends more than 20 minutes laying the groundwork for his fellow musicians to perform on, never stepping on anyone’s toes: a role he’s no doubt perfected with his modern day features. from Dead & Company.
Mayer is a seasoned player with countless collaborations and guest appearances on his resume. But when he joined Harris, Hurley, Sharkey and Clark at the Hotel Cafe on Feb. 4, 2020, he showcased his elite, era-crossing musicianship and delivered one of the best session appearances of his career.