Blues and jazz have always been inter-woven, so it was only natural that a blues man would explore blues with a jazz twist. John Mayall did that in 1969 with his album The Turning Point. On that album….
Mayall tried a new format with lower volume, acoustic instruments, and no drummer. He recruited acoustic fingerstyle guitarist Jon Mark and flautist-saxophonist John Almond. Mark was best known as Marianne Faithfull’s accompanist for three years and for having been a member of the band Sweet Thursday (which included pianist Nicky Hopkins and future Cat Stevens collaborator Alun Davies, also a guitarist). Almond had played with Zoot Money and Alan Price and was no stranger to Mayall’s music—he had played baritone sax on 4 cuts of Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton and some of A Hard Road. This new band was markedly different from previous Mayall projects, and its making is well documented both on the 1999 double CD The Masters and on the 2004 DVD The Godfather of British Blues: The Turning Point.
Along with the big change in sound, Mayall decided on a big change in scenery: a move to Los Angeles. The new band made its U.S. debut at the Newport Jazz Festival on 5 July, whilst the 12 July performance at the Fillmore East provided the tracks for the live album The Turning Point. A studio album, Empty Rooms, was recorded with the same personnel, with Mayall’s next bassist, former Canned Heat member Larry Taylor, playing bass in a duet with Thompson on “To a Princess.” Read More at Wikipedia
After two 1970 releases, Empty Rooms, which features Jon Mark and Johnny Almond and USA Union, featuring the Don “Sugarcane” Harris, Mayall returned to the blues for a few albums. In 1972 though, he came back with a bigger jazz ensemble for the albums:Jazz Blues Fusion and Movin’ On. From Wikipedia:
A live album Jazz Blues Fusion was released in the following year, with Mayall on harmonica, guitar and piano, Blue Mitchell on trumpet, Clifford Solomon and Ernie Watts on saxophones, Larry Taylor on bass, Ron Selico on drums and Freddy Robinson on guitar. A few personnel changes are noted at the release of a similar album in 1973, the live Moving On.
These are two of my favorite Mayall albums. But back to The Turning Point, here’s a video of one of my favorite tracks “Thoughts about Roxanne” with the great horn work of Johnny Almond…. put it on close your eyes and drift!