A mosaic of a smiling Harvey
Mason graces the cover of Chameleon (Concord Records, 2014),
the renowned drummer’s homage to the Head Hunters recording as
well as a nod to Mason’s nickname, a reference to his versatility.
A legendary session drummer, producer, composer, recording artist and
member of Fourplay, Mason is one of the most sought-after and recorded
musicians on the planet.
Kasami Washington sits in on “Black Frost,” a tune composed by Mason’s
Fourplay bandmate Bob James with Grover Washington Jr. The arrangement
is reminiscent of mid-1970s jazz, the style popularized in that period
by artists like Grover Washington, Tom Scott and Wayne Shorter. Kasami
makes the tenor squeak and squeal in key points. Also contributing are
arranger Corey “Ck” King on synths and trombone, Matthew Stevens on
guitar, Kris Bowers on Fender Rhodes, Ben Williams on electric bass and
Bill Summers on percussion. Mason gets his licks in, but this song is
all about Washington.
Bowers arranged the Patrice Rushen composition, “Before the Dawn.”
Washington plays both tenor and soprano saxes, with trumpeter Christian
Scott joining Mason, King and Williams. The horns blend and overlap
beautifully. Mason is subtle but effective, injecting cymbal splashes
here and pounding the toms there. There are no solos necessarily. Scott,
King, Washington and Bowers take turns leading a phrase, often
overlapping. At one point, each is doing his own thing, building to a
group climax before reverting to the tranquil theme.
Often credited for Herbie Hancock, the title song was a team effort,
composed by Mason, Hancock, Bennie Maupin and Paul Jackson. For this
arrangement, intro and outro were written by Summers, who also handles
percussion, vocals and Hinda Hu whistle. Mason takes drums, piano and
synth bass, with Washington again on tenor, Stevens, Mark de Clive-Lowe
on Fender Rhodes and synth and Jimmy Haslip on electric bass. This
“Chameleon” is more of a laid-back groove than the original. In fact, it
sounds more like a completely new song than a remake.
Mason is a multi-Grammy nominated musician. His track record includes
stints with Barbra Streisand, James Brown, Beyonce, Christina Aguilera,
Jennifer Hudson, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Carlos Santana, Michael
Jackson, John Legend, Seal, the London Symphony Orchestra and the house
band of the late-night television program, Arsenio.
Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Mason began taking drum lessons at
age 7, playing in high school bands and buying his first drum set at age
16. He studied at the Berklee College of Music and the New England
Conservatory of Music. Stellar albums on which Mason appears include
Hancock’s Head Hunters, Donald Byrd’s Black Byrd,
Grover Washington Jr.’s Mister Magic, Bob James’ Three
(featuring “Westchester Lady”), Lee Ritenour’s Captain Fingers
and George Benson’s Breezin’.
Mason’s playing has also been part of motion picture soundtracks,
including Cars 2, the Mission Impossible films,
Star Trek, Speed Racer, Three Days of the Condor,
The Fabulous Baker Boys, On Golden Pond, Hook,
the Rush Hour movies, The Enforcer and films scored by
Mason, Dreamgirls and Get on Up.
Chameleon is Mason’s 10th recording as a leader.