He’s moved to Massachusetts but Danny Mayer knows he always has a “Spot” in California.
Santa Cruz-based instrumental funk-jam band On the Spot Trio became a duo when the fast-fingered guitarist was recruited by Alan Evans to play in his three-piece band on the other side of the country. However, since making the move last February, Mayer has returned on a few occasions to play with his longtime band mates keyboardist Kris Yunker and drummer Jeff Wilson. One the Spot Trio will be at Lake Tahoe on Friday, Jan. 3 for a Red Room show in the Crystal Bay Casino.
“Me and Chris and Jeff have maintained a great relationship,” Mayer told Tahoe Onstage. “There were never any weird vibes. They were happy for me with Al picking me up. I’ve been back every few months and every time I’m back I schedule it around when they are going to be playing and sit in on their gigs. They’ve grown so much, too.
“I’ve been playing my ass off here. When I go back and play with them it really shows. It’s like a kid you don’t see for three months and when you do they are so much bigger but it’s only been three months but they look like a completely different kid. Every time I go back we all gotten so much better individually. So we’ve kind of kept it going.”
Evans is best known as the hard-driving drummer for Soulive, but he also is an in-demand producer who has made all of On the Spot Trio’s records. Evans was impressed with Mayer’s musicianship and amiability and hired him and keyboardist Beau Sasser to create the Alan Evans Trio.
“Between the two of them I basically fell out of the sky into the best possible scenario I could have ever imagined,” Mayer said. “We all live within 15 minutes of each other. We’ve done tons of Thursday, Friday, Saturday runs, Philly, D.C. New York or Syracuse, Buffalo, Albany on the way back. There are a million venues to play within a three- or four-hour drive in any direction, whereas out there (Santa Cruz) there are five venues within six hours in every direction.
“There’s so many more people here, so many more places to play. There is a very well established funk-jam band scene to which Soulive is a huge part.”
Endorsements from Evans and Sasser allowed Mayer to quickly join the music community and get plenty of work.
“It’s an intense yet friendly music scene,” Mayer said. “The Northeast has a really big group of musicians. It’s a harder scene to bust into and people are more abrasive and up front rather than behind your back. Sometimes it doesn’t feel as friendly but once you break into the scene and they know, ‘Oh, this kid can play.’ Once you get past that whole thing, there’s a community.
“Everyone is so much more confident in their playing that they don’t mind subbing gigs to other guitar players. … Every single person I play with is pushing me to be a better guitar player. Like the old saying, the best way to get better is to play with people who are better than you. I am constantly playing with people I have looked up to for a long time. Now those are the guys who are getting me gigs.”
The Alan Evans Trio in the spring released its debut album,“Merkaba,” recorded at Evans’s Playonbrother studio.
A live album, the first of a series to be called “The Woodstock Sessions” from Applehead Recording Studios, is expected to be released in January.
“It’s down the road from Levon Helms’ place,” Mayer said. “We were the first. The second was Medeski Martin & Wood with Nels Cline.”
AE3 toured in Europe last fall and will hit the road starting Jan. 31, playing selected dates for three months.
Mayer will join the On the Spot Duo in Santa Cruz Thursday, Jan. 2 at The Crepe Place for Yunker’s 30th birthday, which starts a short run of shows, including one in Tahoe and a jam at Moe’s Alley with some of the top players in Santa Cruz.
On The Spot Trio also plans to record two songs for a 45.
On the Spot Trio
When: 10 p.m. Friday, Jan. 3
Where: Crystal Bay Casino Red Room