Concord Records has announced the signing of an exclusive solo deal with renowned session drummer, producer and composer Harvey Mason, whose debut recording for the label,Chameleon, will be released in April.
A blend of R&B, urban and cutting-edge jazz, Chameleon takes its inspiration from the title track, which Mason co-wrote with Herbie Hancock, and is a knowing nod to Mason himself, aptly dubbed the “Chameleon” for his uncanny ability to perform so many styles of music. The album updates classic tracks that Mason either wrote or played on, such as Hancock’s “Chameleon,” Grover Washington’s “Black Frost,” Patrice Rushen’s “Before the Dawn,” Donald Byrd’s “Places and Spaces” and Mason’s own “Either Way.” Look for Mason to hit the road with his new band, Chameleon, to support his Concord release.
Mason, one of the most recorded drummers of all-time, has worked with a pantheon of musical giants, including Barbra Streisand, James Brown, Herbie Hancock, Beyoncé, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Björk, Carlos Santana, Michael Jackson and the London Symphony Orchestra. He has composed songs recorded by artists ranging from Nancy Wilson and Mary J. Blige to The Notorious B.I.G. and Lupe Fiasco. His deal with Concord adds one more chapter to his legacy.
Mason is a founding member of Fourplay, and he continues to flex his writing, playing, arranging and production skills with bandmates Bob James, Nathan East and Chuck Loeb. The group’s most recent recording, Esprit De Four, was released on the Heads Up label and debuted at No. 1 onBillboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart.
Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1947, Mason began taking formal drum lessons at age 7, playing in school bands and finally buying his first drum set at the age of 16. He continued his education first at the Berklee School of Music, then attended the New England Conservatory of Music on full scholarship, studying performance, composing, arranging, percussion and mallets. He received immeasurable preparation for orchestral work from the legendary Vic Firth, timpanist with the Boston Symphony.
In the ’70s and ’80s, Mason worked on Donald Byrd’s commercial breakthrough album, Black Byrd, and a series of successful crossover albums for Blue Note Records. This led to his seminal work on Herbie Hancock’s 1974 masterpiece Head Hunters, which featured the hit “Chameleon” (co-composed by Mason) and Mason’s own arrangement of Hancock’s “Watermelon Man.”
A string of recordings soon followed, including performances on Grover Washington Jr.’s Mister Magic, Bob James’ Three, Lee Ritenour’s Captain Fingers, and many more. The icing on the cake for Mason’s phenomenal ’70s output was his contribution to George Benson’s triple-platinum-selling Breezin’ album.
With a commitment to broaden his solo career, Mason says that he’s finally found a good balance. “It’s become more evident to me how much I love playing live and having interaction with bandmates and music fans. I’m not a smooth-jazz player or a straightahead jazz player. I’m more than all of that. I am the Chameleon.”
Photo credit: Sandrine Lee