One of my best friends is from ASPEN. And 11 years ago this August, he was married there. Until that time, I’d never been during the summer. It’s a divine section of the country. Like WYOMING. Like MONTANA. Since his wedding, I’ve visited there for most LABOR DAY weekends. There’s a great music festival right outside of town called JAZZ ASPEN. Which, funny enough, has no jazz. The one in June does. This year’s lineup included JOHN MAYER, STING, WEEZER. PORTUGAL. THE MAN, LUKE COMBS, H.E.R., ZZ WARD, TURKUAZ, and others. If you’ve read REDEF over the years, you know I’m a big fan of both Mayer and Sting. To me, they're similar in ways. And I’ve discussed Sting with Mayer a few times. We both loved his live album “BRING ON THE NIGHT.” I had the poster on my wall growing up. That album was my entry to jazz musicians. He played with the best of the best: BRANFORD MARSALIS, KENNY KIRKLAND, OMAR HAKIM, DARRYL JONES, JANICE PENDARVIS, and DOLETTE MCDONALD. But it also taught me something at a young age. Artists are way more eclectic than a label, a record store (back in the day), or radio station would prefer. And that’s where their paths are similar. Their interests and tastes are wide-ranging. And they make it into the music. For Mayer, I can’t say many of his albums are similar. Maybe one or two. But they're all John Mayer. He doesn’t seem comfortable repeating himself. And that’s how some artists think. Some of the best. I hear the influences. STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN, Sting, JAMES TAYLOR and others. He was a lovechild. But now, very much his own artist. I hear Blues, Folk, Country, R&B, Rock, Jazz, Reggae, Pop and more. I have an incomplete SPOTIFY playlist of 53 songs that cover his albums (studio and live), acoustic tracks, and some covers too. They span the map of styles. But they're all John Mayer. MTV legend TOM FRESTON once took me to a show at NYU. It was a Senegalese band named ORCHESTRA BAOBAB. They were supporting their album “SPECIALIST IN ALL STYLES.” As I watched Mayer play his set, I thought of that album name. Because as he’s explored his own craft, he’s become somewhat of a “specialist in all styles.” Evidenced further by his work with DEAD & COMPANY. You have to be a little crazy, a superb musician, and a big fan to even try to attempt to sit in with, let alone help lead members of the GRATEFUL DEAD playing their songbook to massive crowds of the most dedicated fan base that ever lived. I’ve witnessed him win over a skeptical crowd in real-time with insane playing and yet making the parts his own. I don’t think I’ve seen an artist turn an audience (a supposedly all Rock one) like that since JAY-Z at GLASTONBURY in 2007. Mayer’s career began before the TMZ-ization of music coverage. A time when you turned to music publications for information. Later, gossip overshadowed his music at times. Now? He’s using social media in a way that has built an extremely entertaining relationship with his audience. When you go to a show, they aren’t just there to hear their favorite song. It’s like visiting a friend. A funny one. Obviously, there's still a little wall. But Mayer has figured out how to break that down a bit, keep it real, and let the music lead. There’s a confidence there that comes with hard work and age. You can see it in the choices he makes. He releases music on his own timetable in the way and amounts he wants. Like PEARL JAM, he’s built a very loyal fan base that allows him to sell-out anywhere in the world when he wants. The Dead & Co. project further proved the fact that he's one of the best guitarists in the world. One thing I’ve also liked about his music is that it evokes a vibe. Moods, colors or locales. At least for me. I mentioned Montana. Mayer happens to have a home and does a bunch of recording there. And if you’ve ever been to Montana or Colorado or Wyoming, there’s a calmness that comes over you. I asked him if that had an effect on his sound. “No doubt. That’s why I have more songs to write there, and more excitably, I have records to write and record with others there.” As you listen to his new song “CARRY ME AWAY,” it has space. He knows when to play and when to let it breathe. Just like his recent, “I GUESS IT JUST FEEL LIKE.” He’s on tour right now. Making fans happy and winning over the last skeptics. In LOS ANGELES this weekend. Go see him. Here’s a taste of his another level performance and humor from Aspen… A special weekend treat full or knowledge carbs for you music heads and musicians. MATTY KARAS' REDEF MusicSET: "Instrumental Inventions and Innovations, From Martin to Moog and Beyond." Where did the saxophone come from? How are pianos made? Who was building drum machines in the 1930s? Origin stories, essays, and appreciations of our favorite noisemaking toys. An awesome timesuck... Happy Birthday to DR. ANNE PETERS, SRIRAM KRISHNAN, SEAN MILLS, LARRY ZHONG, VIVIAN SCHILLER, and SALOME EDGEWORTH.