It is not an understatement to say that flutist Michael Mason’s music has always been “beyond category.” An adventurous musician based in Chicago, he creates atmospheric music that freely and seamlessly combines together the influences of the cultures of the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Latin America along with the improvisation of jazz.
Impermanence features Mason on a variety of flutes joined by the same group (except with tabla replacing keyboards) that he utilized on his previous album Transcendence. Mason is mostly in the forefront in a unique group that also includes either Fareed Haque on acoustic guitar or electric guitarist Scot Ashley, electric and acoustic bassist Geoffrey Lowe, Aras Biskis on various drums and percussion instruments from Africa, the Mid East and Asia, Danny Goessling playing percussion and hand pans, percussionist Jose Natal mostly on congas, and Samir Zayed on tabla. It is fair to say that no other ensemble sounds like this one.
The music (all eight pieces are by Mason) is melodic, utilizes repetition creatively, has infectious and often-hypnotic rhythms that are both danceable and subtle, is a bit mystical, and creates an exotic atmosphere. Michael Mason is a virtuoso on his flutes but holds back on displaying too much technique, instead choosing to serve the music. There are concise guitar solos on various tracks by Ashley and Haque, but in general the emphasis is on the unique ensembles and the unusual blending of instruments and cultures. In addition to the release, the music on “Freedom” has been turned into a You Tube video that with its many photos is a tribute to the people of Ukraine.
Whether it is the Mideast-flavored “Goes Around Comes Around,” the simple but effective theme of “On The Road,” the groove set by tabla and bass on “Transient State,” or the sensuous “Me To You,” Michael Mason’s Impermanence will certainly keep listeners entranced.
Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian
Contributing writer for 7 major worldwide jazz publications