CD Review: Two Sides, One Story / Mason Brothers Quintet

Mason Brothers Quintet. Two Sides, One Story
(Archival Records 1583. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

This is a fabulous album. If it’s ever necessary to know what combination of duty, pleasure or imperative brings a reviewer to his or her keyboard to write about a CD, let me put some cards on the table for this one. It’s been getting listened to in my car for at least two months, and I’m still listening to it with pleasure. I just enjoy it, and I won’t be letting go of my copy in any foreseeable future.

Brad and Elliot Mason are two brothers, originally from Norwich, who now live in New York. Elliot plays trombone and bass trumpet. He is the better known: he is a trombonist in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. His elder brother Brad plays trumpet and flugelhorn. They are both phenomenal players, with a lovely sound.

The interlocking of the two horns is completely instinctive, the ensemble between the two often uncanny. Is it one intrument or two? It’s like an amoeba which not only splits but then re-combines. The brothers know each other’s playing inside out, and never fail to react. As dialogue, as co-operation, it’s irresistible, and it gets better with every hearing. The brothers are in their mid-thirties. They have something consistently worthwhile to say, a combined story to tell in every tune. The CD is self-produced: Elliott writes: “We’ve done it the way we wanted to do it from start to finish.”

The CD was recorded in September 2009, but is only now being properly released because of some legal issues around the use of the name. Google “Mason Brothers,” and you’ll see where the problem. The building materials firm in Pembrokeshire had no problem. The haulage firm in Lincolnshire were fine.  But another set of Mason Brothers, who had trademarked the name, were rather less accommodating.

Anyway, this set of Mason Brothers, the good guys, assembled a selection of first-call players from New York. Pianist Dave Kikoski always has a harmonic trick up his sleeve, and scene-sets and comments wonderfully. Bassist Scott Colley has a huge presence,a big warm sound. Drummer Antonio Sanchez is completely responsive. He can step forward and make a bold statement, and then go into hiding.

There are three stellar guests: Chris Potter blows a storm on two of the hard-bop stormers, Stage Pints (an anagram for the brothers’ re-workingof Giant Steps), and In The Third Person. Guitarist Tim Miller enters after a couple of minutes into the dark and mysterious world of The Evil Eye, written to accompany a silent movie, and plays a wonderful solo. The vibraphone of Joe Locke features on one track, the soft-paced, sweetly nostalgic Gone Home, the title referring to the fact that the brothers’ home was in the UK and is now in the US. Locke ushers the tune in, and tucks it away gently at the end.

A sensitive writer called Wynton Marsalis – who knows athing or two about having musical brothers – has written the liner notes with warmth and affection. The CD is nicely engineered and mixed by James Farber. Highly recommended.

Peter Vacher’s Jazz UK profile of Elliot Mason is HERE A selection of videos of the Mason Brothers Quintet is on their website.

Categories: miscellaneous

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