Audio Mixer: Seth Presant.
Recording information: Mason Sound Studios, Los Angeles, CA.
Photographers: Devin DeHaven; Suzanne Foschino; Jacob Alexander; Glenn Gordon .
Harvey Mason's 2014 effort, Chameleon, is an expansive and funky album that finds the journeyman jazz drummer exploring the space between the '70s post-bop/fusion albums that marked his early career and the contemporary smooth jazz work that has defined the latter half of his career. Having started out playing with the masterful pianist Erroll Garner, Mason eventually join Herbie Hancock's legendary Headhunters ensemble, with whom he recorded the original version of this album's title track. And while he went on to a successful career working with a bevy of artists including Lee Ritenour, George Benson, and others, it is primarily his work with Hancock that is Mason's focus here. In fact, Mason has put together a group of adept musicians rivaling the original Headhunters lineup, including original Headhunters percussionist Bill Summers, trumpeter Christian Scott, saxophonist Kamasi Washington, Fender Rhodes keyboardist Kris Bowers, bassist Ben Williams, and others. Together, Mason and his band delve deep into a batch of original songs and well-chosen covers by such similarly inclined crossover jazz giants as Bobby Hutcherson, Patrice Rushen, and the Mizell Brothers. And while Mason's organic, chilled-out take on the title track (replete with Summers' atmospheric vocals and Hinda Hu whistle) is a highlight, it's merely the tip of this funk-berg. Similarly engaging are such cuts as the synth-driven, '80s video game funk of "Mase's Theme" and the yearning, alternative R&B-infused reworking of Leon Ware's "If I Ever Lose This Heaven," featuring vocalist Chris Turner. We also get the moody, sensuous "Black Frost," with its synth-layered groove that still allows for a muscular, skronk-laden solo from Washington. Ultimately, as the title implies, Chameleon is a joyful album that combines the best aspects of Mason's musically colorful, ever-changing career. ~ Matt Collar