Jazz Drummer Harvey Mason wants to leave listeners with a warm feeling when they hear his newest solo record, “Chameleon,” which is set to be released on Concord Records at the end of the month.
“I hope people want to play ‘Chameleon’ again and again. I want the music to feed their soul because I really enjoyed making it,” explained Mason who has earned his album’s moniker as a nickname due to his uncanny ability to perform so many genres of music.
The record, which is a mixture of R& B, urban and cutting-edge Jazz, takes its inspiration from a hit song of the same name that Mason co-wrote with fellow musician and friend Herbie Hancock for Hancock’s 1974 “Headhunters” album.
“‘Chameleon’ was a revolutionary record and it had a great impact on Herbie’s album,” Mason said. “I’ve been linked to the song since it’s been made. This record is fresh, retro and updated and I think it’s an important piece of music. All of my other CD’s have managed to stick around and have gotten sampled by hip-hop artists. My goal is to leave important music here.”
This updated version of “Chameleon” includes tracks that Mason either penned or played on throughout his illustrious career as a session drummer, producer, recording artist and composer. Those classic tracks include Patrice Rushen’s “Before the Dawn,” Mason’s own “Either Way,” and Donald Byrd’s “Places and Spaces.”
“‘Chameleon’ turned out really well. It’s different than the original, but people will be able to recognize it,” said Mason who enjoys spending time with his wife, golfing and movies when he is not recording or performing. “We used up and coming, fiery musicians. We just wanted to make great music and the musicians were very excited to work together.
“We all went in the studio and recorded live. Once everyone knew the blueprint of what we were doing, it was synergy. It was like casting a movie. The attitudes were great,” continued Mason, who also is a percussionist and founding member of contemporary Jazz group, Fourplay. The members of Fourplay are: Mason, guitarist Chuck Loeb, bassist Nathan East, keyboardist Bob James. Fourplay is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
“Chameleon” was co-produced by Chris Dunn Sr., director of A&R for Concord Music Group and it features some of the brightest young musical minds in the Jazz world today including trumpeter Christian Scott, bassist Ben Williams, pianist/keyboardist Kris Bowers, guitarist Matthew Stevens, trombonist/vocalist Corey “C.K.” King, saxophonist Kamasi Washington, vocalist Chris Turner, and keyboardist Mark de Clive-Lowe.
Mason always had the innate ability to play the drums.
“Drumming was natural to me. When I was a toddler I was banging on pots and pans and my mother recognized it, but I didn’t decide to be a musician until my final year of high school,” Mason recalls.
He began taking formal drum lessons at the age of 7, and soon after playing in school bands before purchasing his first drum set at 16. Mason began his formal music education at the Berklee School of Music. He continued his musical studies at the New England Conservatory of Music on full scholarship where he studied performance, composing, arranging, percussion and mallets. In 1970 he graduated from the New England Conservatory armed with a B.A. in Education and Performance.
Mason released his first solo album, “Marching in the Street” in 1975 on Arista Records.
For about the next decade, the Atlantic City, NJ native was hobb-knobbing with some of Jazz’s best musicians working with Donald Byrd on his commercial breakthrough album “Black Byrd” and a succession of successful crossover albums for Blue Note Records. That led to his partnership with Hancock and his “Headhunters” masterpiece, which featured the original “Chameleon” and Mason’s arrangement of Hancock’s “Watermelon Man.”
That success was followed by Mason’s work on Grover Washington Jr.’s “Mister Magic,” Bob James’ “Three” and Pittsburgh-born George Benson’s triple platinum “Breezin’” album.
His percussion can be heard on numerous movie scores for such renowned composers as Michael Giacchino, Michael Colombier, and Dave Grusin.
Mason will be touring nationally and internationally with “Chameleon” this summer. Although there are no dates scheduled for Pittsburgh, Mason fans can catch him in Boston in June, New York in July and Detroit in early August. There is also a Jazz Cruise scheduled for sometime in October with his Fourplay band mates.
“I haven’t been in Pittsburgh in a long time. The last time I was there was with Earl Garner,” recalls the avid baseball and all around sports enthusiast.” “Pittsburgh is a working man’s town and I’d love to come back.”
(For more information on Mason’s touring schedule, visit harveymason.net or concordmusicgroup.com.)
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Legendary Jazz drummer Mason reflects on new album, long career was originally published on newpittsburghcourieronline.com