"Me and the Mailman"
Pianist Lincoln Mayorga
by Jeff Waggoner
It's been a year now that "Me and the Mailman" have been playing Wednesday nights at the Blue Plate Restaurant, and despite the duo's astonishing talent, it seems that most of the jazz lovers in the Capital District haven't discovered them yet.
The "Me" in the duo is Lincoln Mayorga, a pianist who one would have to search long and hard to find with a deeper range of professional experiecne. Mayorga, a native of Southern California, was the pianist for the 50's "Four Preps" (million sellers of the song, "26 Miles"), toured with Itzak Perlman's klezmer group, played Gershwin with the Moscow Philharmonic, recorded on dozens of Hollywood films whose scores were written by the likes of John Williams, Randy Newman and David Rose, and was a staff pianist for Disney Studios and he even played with Phil Ochs.
All told, Mayorga has played piano in 250 cities. And that just scratches the surface of Mayorga's resume. Recently, for example, Mayorga was a guest on Marian McPartland's NPR show, "Piano Jazz."
In the mid-80s, Lincoln moved from California to Columbia County to be near his beloved Berkshire Mountains. He married and adopted a couple of kids.
And as Lincoln's wife, Sheri, says, "Currently (Lincoln) tours, playing a mean Brahms and Chopin."
Sheri Bauer-Mayorga, an extremely talented instrumentalist, singer an songwriter, refers to her husband as "The Crossover King." Those fortunate enough to know Lincoln's work, realize the title isn't at all a stretch
With Lincoln as producer and pianist, Sheri has turned out an deeply moving CD of her songs, "On the Wrong Side of the Raidroad Tracks," (Townhall Records THCD-61 www.townhallrecords.com). In addition to Sheri on vocals, guitar and according and Lincoln on piano, the CD also features one of the Capital District's top two jazz bassists, Pete Toigo.
Remarkably, the village of Chatham is home to the other local great jazz bassist, Otto Gardner, who happens to live down the street from Toigo, and is Lincoln's partner in "Me and the Mailman"
Gardner, who is literally a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, delivers the mail for much of the village of Chatham. While Gardner doesn't have the professional resume that Mayorga has, the Mailman definitely has the chops and musicality that rival the top jazz double bassists -- plus he is filled with the passion that only someone who has been straining at the bit to get to his instrument has.
While Gardner gave up playing bass full time once he got married and had a kid -- he said it was s "time to get a real job" -- he clearly misses not having more time to spend with his beloved bass. He does his best to make up for the lost time on Wednesday nights. You won't catch Gardner playing by rote.
The combination of Mayorga's consummate professionalism and Gardner's consuming passion can -- with both are on -- create exceptionally exciting music.
While the duo plays standards in a straight ahead jazz style, that description doesn't do their music justice. Mayorga's incredible repetoire of tunes, from pop to show to classical, inform almost his every lick, and Gardner's driving, creative bass, constantly pushes Mayorga back to his deep well of music.
Gardner clearly relishes his role in the duo. He is an equal partner with the pianist, and doesn't have to sit back and play the traditional role for the bassist -- just rhythm.
While most of their Wednesday night audience has the duo in third place for attention -- behind their dinner partners and their food, attentive listeners are rewarded with the complex back and forth between the two. Mayorga strives to deliver curves for Gardner to field on his bass, who in turn adroitly embellishes them. A year's worth of playing together keeps the dialogue going smoothly back and forth between the two.
"We're starting to feel like a duo," the laconic Mayorga says with a smile, and it is past time for the local jazz community to start tuning in.
They can be found most Wednesdays at the Blue Plate Restaurant at 1 Kinderhook St. in Chatham starting at 6 p.m, but it is best to call first, 518-392-7711, to make sure they are scheduled to play.