Throughout his career, Harvey Mason has been a busy studio musician and a highly versatile drummer able to excel in many different situations. Mason attended Berklee and graduated from the New England Conservatory. Early gigs included four months with Erroll Garner in 1970 and a year with George Shearing from 1970-1971. Soon after leaving Shearing, Mason moved to Los Angeles and quickly became established in the studios, working in films and television. In addition to his anonymous work through the years, Mason has often been part of the jazz world. He played with Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters in 1973, Gerry Mulligan for a 1974 Carnegie Hall concert, Freddie Hubbard, Grover Washington, Jr. (appearing on Mister Magic), Lee Ritenour, Victor Feldman, George Benson (playing drums on “This Masquerade”), and Bob James, among many others. In 1998, Mason paid tribute to Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in some local Los Angeles club gigs. The early 2000s found Mason continuing with his steady session work, as well as releasing two solo albums with 2003’s Trios and 2004’s With All My Heart. In 2014, Mason revisited his ’70s Headhunters roots with Chameleon on Concord. (by Scott Yanow)
Because Harvey Mason has appeared so frequently as a sideman on lots of smooth jazz dates, one tends to think of him solely within that genre, even though his roots are in straight-ahead jazz. This rare date as a leader features the drummer leading a series of 11 different piano-bass-drums trios, primarily in post-bop, bop or hard bop settings. His arrangement of “Bernie’s Tune” is very refreshing, utilizing reoccurring displaced rhythm behind Kenny Barron and Ron Carter. The magic continues with Chick Corea and Dave Carpenter in their creative rendition of “If I Should Lose You.” Victor Feldman’s less familiar “So Near, So Far” features Fred Hersch and Eddie Gomez, though the expected influence of the late Bill Evans is minimal. But elder statesman Hank Jones steals the spotlight with his elegant interpretation of “Tess,” a tune that was brand new to him; Mason and Jones’ longtime bassist George Mraz joins him. Some of the other participating musicians for this project include Monty Alexander, Charlie Haden, Cedar Walton, Mulgrew Miller, Herbie Hancock, Brad Mehldau, Bob James and Dave Grusin. Mason’s informative liner notes not only describe how each take came together in the studio but add background about his relationship to each musician or what appealed to him about each individual’s playing. The only oversight on this terrific release is the inadvertent omission of track-by-track composer credits, though a few of them are included within Mason’s commentary. (by Ken Dryden)
Harvey Mason’s motto on With All My Heart seems to be “The one who plays drums in a jazz trio with the most bad-ass pianists and bassists wins. Arguably, that can be also stated of his entire career, as he has played and recorded with a mind-numbing amount of artists through various historical periods and musical styles. The lengthy and illustrious development of the quintessential small jazz group is definitely boosted by this recording.
The premise of the production was quite simple: Mason endeavoring to pair several of his favorite pianists and bassists to record material that is largely familiar to both musicians and the average jazz audience, as well as suited to the respective instrumentalists involved. With the exception of bassists Dave Carpenter, who performs on “If I Should Lose You and “Speak Like a Child, and Ron Carter, who executes on three compositions, the only common thread of the recording is the dexterous and versatile drumming of the leader. Blessedly, Mason also decided to write the liner notes—hence the prospect of knowing what he had in mind for each super-trio, their respective interpretations, and their raison d’être.
“If I Should Lose You, interpreted by Chick Corea, Carpenter, and Mason, is a first and only take. It’s emblematic of the best this project, the traditional jazz trio, and this type of music has to offer. Herein the devil isn’t only in the details, even though they tell a story by themselves. The cymbal ride, Carpenter’s in-and-out march (he seems to vanish while being ever more present), and Corea’s elegant and robust lyricism are some particulars worth mentioning. But those are minutiae within a dreamily tight and expressive cohesiveness that closes with an understated driven coda.
Hank Jones and George Mraz join the leader in “Tess. Jones opens by himself and takes immediate ownership of this number. Mason does quite a bit with it, without intruding one bit as Mraz lays it heavy yet unruffled before following Jones for a couple of bars. It is finger lickin’ good! (Javier Aq Ortiz)
Monty Alexander (piano on 04.
Kenny Barron (piano on 01.
Dave Carpenter (bass on 02., 10.
Ron Carter (bass on 01., 06., 08.
Chick Corea (piano on 02.
Eddie Gomez (bass on 03.
Larry Grenadier (bass on 07.
Dave Grusin (piano on 09.
Charlie Haden (bass on 05.
Herbie Hancock (piano on 10.
Fred Hersch (piano on 03.
Bob James (piano on 05.
Hank Jones (piano on 11.)
Harvey Mason (drums)
Brad Mehldau (piano on 07.
Mulgrew Miller (piano on 08.
Charnett Moffett (bass on 04.
George Mraz (bass on 11.)
Cedar Walton (piano on 06.
Mike Valerio (bass on 09.)
01. Bernie’s Tune (Barron/Leiber/Miller/Stoller) 3.41
02. If I Should Lose You (Carpenter/Corea/Rainger) 7.27
03. So Near, So Far (Gomez/Hersch) 4.42
04. Swamp Fire (Alexander/Moffett) 4.18
05. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (Harbach/Kern) 6.13
06. Hindsight (Walton) 5.26
07. Dindi (Grenadier/Jobim/Mehldau) 7.48
08. Without A Song (Miller/Youmans) 6.40
09. One Morning In May (Grusin) 4.42
10. Speak Like A Child (Carpenter/Hancock) 5.18
11. Tess (Jones/Mraz/Surman) 4.50