When you’re turning 80 later this year and have already mentored Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Mick Taylor and countless other rock legends, no one would blame you for taking it easy.
John Mayall is having none of that. The father of British blues still tours relentlessly, playing about 100 shows a year. Mayall and his crackerjack band (not the iconic Blues Breakers, however) will hit Dmitriou’s Jazz Alley for four nights starting Thursday.
“It’s just for the love of the music,” Mayall said in a phone interview Monday. “It’s great to have audiences all over the world who appreciate what we do. I think the music is such a life’s blood energy. And I have my health, so I don’t see any reason to cut back.”
Mayall’s current band, the same group of guys from his 2009 studio album “Tough,” includes Texas guitar hero Rocky Athas, and Chicago southsiders Greg Rzab and Jay Davenport on bass and drums.
“There’s a lot more dynamics. With the Blues Breakers it was pretty much a set thing. There wasn’t that much variety in it,” Mayall said. “With this band there’s a lot more improvisational qualities to it. There’s a lot more freedom within the medium so it’s a much more exciting experience and that’s seemed to been proved right by the reactions we’ve been getting over the last few years.”
Fans hoping of a new studio album shouldn’t hold their breaths. Mayall said that things are hung up with his label, Eagle Records, and that the band is waiting to hear how the label wants to move forward. In the meantime, Mayall is still releasing new live material via his website, johnmayall.com.
Seattle Mayall fans will likely remember previous dates he’s played Jazz Alley. It’s where he usually plays when in the city.
“It’s nice because we can settle in for a few days, rather than one night stands, which is the normal procedure,” Mayall said. “We enjoy the fact we don’t have to break down our equipment every night and pack up. It’s a nice little change.”
If you’re expecting to hear certain songs brace yourself. With over 50 years of material to choose from, Mayall said that no two nights will be the same.
In fact, he said it’s possible that he might not repeat a song over the four nights he’s in town.
“It’s always a cross-section because there’s so much material,” he said. “People will come over one night and hear a show and come the next night and hear a completely different repertoire because there’s so much to choose from and we have so much fun with the music. A lot of people will come to more than one show.”
Act quickly if you’re hoping to catch more than one show. Both of Thursday night’s performances are already sold out.
7:30 and 9:30 p.m, Thursday-Sunday at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, 2033 6th Ave, Seattle; $25.50 (206-441-9729 or jazzalley.com)
-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails