Harvey Mason shares jazz life lessons through MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence program
Busy studio musician, jazz drummer, record producer, and member of the band Fourplay teaches and performs with MSU Jazz students
Zach Adleman knew drummer Harvey Mason was a fusion innovator who had worked alongside jazz giants since the 1960s. What he didn’t know was how easy-going and approachable the jazz drummer was going to be.
Adleman met Mason last December when the high-profile musician visited the MSU College of Music to mentor, tour and perform with students through the 2017-18 MSU Jazz Artist in Residence Program. Adleman, a drummer and jazz studies junior, was excited by the prospect of learning and working with Mason, but also a little nervous. But it didn’t take long for Mason to break the ice.
“When I first met Mr. Mason, he made me call him Harvey,” says Adleman. “He was very down to earth, which made it easy to talk with him and ask questions. By the same token, the stories he told about the people he performed with would make anyone do a double take.”
Mason was the second of four critically acclaimed artists participating in the residency program supported through a $1 million endowment by the MSU Federal Credit Union (MSUFCU). His visit spanned seven days of mentoring College of Music jazz studies students and touring with the MSU Jazz Orchestra I to high schools and academies statewide. His visit also included performances at the MSUFCU for their Blue Mondays concert series and a public performance at the Fairchild Theatre.
“As a drummer, it was beautiful to be around him and see him play,” says Adleman. “His confidence was so powerful. It was as if he was lending his confidence to each and every member of the band.”
Randy Gelispie, instructor of jazz drums in the MSU Jazz Studies area, recommended Mason for the residency. Gelispie had been Mason’s long-time mentor, beginning in the mid-1960s when the two met at the Wondergardens in Atlantic City.
I kept in touch with him all these years,” says Gelispie. “I knew he would be great with our students and that they would learn and appreciate him because of all the things he’s done.”
Mason is a renowned jazz artist, busy studio musician, record producer, and member of the band Fourplay. He attended Berklee College of Music and graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music. He started out playing with the masterful Erroll Garner and George Shearing, then moved to Los Angeles in the early 1970s to establish himself as a studio musician in film and television. Mason quickly entered the jazz and jazz fusion scene to work with artists like Bob James, Chick Corea, the Brecker Brothers, Chuck Loeb, Nathan East, Lee Ritenour, Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters, Gerry Mulligan, Freddie Hubbard, Grover Washington, Jr., and George Benson. In 1975, Mason began recording albums as a leader. He continued with steady session work and released two solo albums in the early 2000s. In 2014, he revisited his 1970s Headhunters roots with the CD release of “Chameleon” on Concord.
Adleman says he enjoyed performing with Mason, and came away with tips and techniques that impact the way he approaches jazz. He says, too, that the opportunity to visit schools and work with students through the MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence program has added another meaningful component to his studies at MSU.
“Hopefully, me and MSU Jazz Orchestra band members inspire these students like Harvey and other guest artists inspire us,” says Adleman. “It wasn’t so long ago that we were in their shoes, and it feels good to pass along some of the things I’ve learned since then.”
The MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence program represents the largest-ever investment in the College’s curriculum and provides one-on-one instruction, collaboration and performance opportunities with some of the world’s best jazz musicians. Since 2013, 16 artists have come to MSU to carry out an itinerary that includes workshops, concerts, events and outreach to more than 27,332 students and adults in communities across Michigan. The 2017-2018 season features four weeklong residencies including Trumpeter Michael Philip Mossman, Drummer Harvey Mason, Pianist Helen Sung and Saxophonist Steve Wilson.
Recap: On the Road with Harvey Mason
While an MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence in October, jazz drummer Harvey Mason took to the road with the Jazz Orchestra I as part of MSU’s efforts to bring jazz performance and education to Michigan high schools, music academies and colleges.
Destinations and highlights:
- Hackett Catholic Prep High School, Kalamazoo . . . 304 people attended a community outreach concert; 39 students were involved in workshops.
- Huron High School, Ann Arbor . . . 500 people attended a community outreach concert; 50 students were involved in workshops.
- Carr Center Arts Academy, Detroit . . . 50 people attended a community outreach concert
- Charlevoix High School, Charlevoix . . . 150 people attended a community outreach concert