Harvey Mason is among the most recorded and in-demand drummers of all-time. A legendary, multi-GRAMMY® nominated session drummer, producer, composer & recording artist, he has worked with a pantheon of musical giants, including Barbra Streisand, James Brown, Herbie Hancock, Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, Usher, Jennifer Hudson, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Bjork, Carlos Santana, Michael Jackson, John Legend, Seal, and the London Symphony Orchestra. He has composed and written songs recorded by artists ranging from Nancy Wilson and Mary J. Blige to The Notorious B.I.G., Lupe Fiasco, Nelly/P. Diddy and T.I.
Chameleon, Mason’s April 29, 2014 solo debut for Concord Records and 10th solo project overall, adds one more remarkable chapter to his legacy. 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 actually 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.
Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Mason began taking formal drum lessons at age seven, 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. In 1970, he graduated from NEC with a B.A. in Education and Performance. He received immeasurable preparation for orchestral work from the legendary Vic Firth, timpanist with the Boston Symphony.
In the’70s and ’80s, “Mase” was king, working 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 jazz masterpiece Head Hunters (1974), which featured the hit “Chameleon” (co-composed by Mason) and Mason’s own arrangement of Hancock’s “Watermelon Man.”
A string of recordings comprising a “Fusion 101″ class for aspiring drummers soon followed, including performances on Grover Washington Jr.’s Mister Magic, Bob James’ Three (featuring “Westchester Lady”), Lee Ritenour’s Captain Fingers, and many more. The icing on the cake for this phenomenal ’70s output was Mason’s contribution to George Benson’s triple-platinum selling Breezin’ album.
Mason’s precision playing has graced movies for such renowned composers as Michael Giacchino (Cars 2, Mission Impossible 1, 2, 3 & 4, Up , Star Trek, Speed Racer), Michel Colombier (Prince’s Purple Rain), Michel Legrand, Miles Davis’ (Dingo), Dave Grusin (Three Days of the Condor, The Fabulous Baker Boys and On Golden Pond), John Williams (Hook), and Lalo Schifrin (Rush Hour 1,2 & 3 and The Enforcer), Harvey Mason (Dreamgirls, Get On Up) to name only a few.
Mason is a founding member of Fourplay, and he continues to flex his writing, playing, arranging and production skills with partners Bob James, Nathan East and Chuck Loeb. Fourplay’s most recent recording, Esprit De Four, was released on Heads Up, a division of Concord Music Group, and debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart, receiving a GRAMMY® nomination.
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 straight-ahead jazz player. I’m more than all of that, I am the Chameleon.” He adds, “The best is yet to come.”