From the start of his career in the early 1990s, flutist Michael Mason has always forged his own musical path. While he is a versatile musician who had extensive classical training, Mason has worked with some of the most adventurous improvisers based in the Chicago area. On his own projects, he creates music that could be called “world fusion” but is really unclassifiable.
On Transcendence, as was true of his other recent sets, Mason’s music is quite atmospheric, cinematic, soothing (but never sleepy), melodic, and filled with light danceable grooves. Performing on a variety of flutes from other cultures, he is joined by either acoustic guitarist Fareed Haque or electric guitarist Scot Ashley, bassist Geoffrey Lowe, Danny Goessling on hang drums and hang pans, Aras Biskis playing drums and percussion from Africa, Asia and the Mideast, Jose Natal on congas and cajon, and pianist-keyboardist Dave Rice.
The music of Transcendence usually has Michael Mason’s flute in the lead with occasional concise solos from the guitarists. Mason’s nine originals blend together light rhythms and folkish melodies that are inspired by the cultures of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. The set begins with the friendly and likable melody of “Thinking Of You,” an appealing groove that makes one think of a desert caravan. “Pathways” utilizes a bass pattern in 6/4 and close interplay by Mason with pianist Rice and bassist Lowe. “Distant Shores” has a particularly attractive theme, Ashley’s guitar is prominent on “Aloft,” and the optimistic melody of “Joy” fits its title. “Pentadia” and the slightly ominous “The Watchman” set hypnotic grooves that would perfectly fit in a soundtrack. The enjoyable program concludes with “Together” (one of Mason’s strongest melodies) and “Night Skies” which has a vibe that is similar to the opening “Thinking Of You.”
The subtle and quietly exotic music of Michael Mason’s Transcendence rewards those who give it a close listen.
Michael Mason’s new album brings together the varied influences and nuances of many cultures and traditions. Melodic and rhythmic excursions to calm the soul and stimulate the intellect. Sensitive, thoughtful and played with emotion and technical expertise. As all good music should be..