Trombonist Elliot Mason is a leading voice on his instrument and a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis (JLCO). Before, Now and After celebrates the release of his debut solo album as a leader. As the title suggests, the record reflects on Mason’s most important musical influences, while adding a fresh vision and 21st century insight to them. This takes shape in several ways; in addition to brand new compositions “embodying emotions from favorite recordings,” he also explores specific compositions by John Coltrane, Duke Ellington & Juan Tizol, McCoy Tyner, Lee Morgan, Antonio Carlos Jobim, among others—in each case, borrowing a key component from the original while exploring other aspects of the piece with a new perspective. Sometimes this means preserving the original melody while broadening the soundscape, whereas on other tunes he’s kept elements of the song’s foundation and written entirely new melodies. It’s an anticipated debut that will offer valuable insight into the past, present, and future of one of jazz’s most talented instrumentalists.
About the Recording:
This recording is a love story. More than a love story about two people (soon to be three!), it is a heart-felt vibrant and sometimes raucously joyous story about the love for life; life supreme. The lyrics and music portray the scintillating emotions of being alive and the myriad of questions one must continually ask to become enlightened and trusting. Artists through the millennia have offered their abstract views on the human condition and the most dynamic human emotion....love; love of another human being, love of one's work, love of the knowledge of the unknown. Every note and word on this recording is performed by expressive individualists celebrating the euphoria of life supreme and its lessons and triumphs.
When I first heard Elliot Mason in 2008 I remember thinking that he played like I play only down an octave. A few years later, I HEARD Elliot Mason and realized that no one plays like Elliot regardless of the octave; angular, swinging and all over the horn always creating innovative melodies in the moment with a warm and forceful sound. His blend with Sofjia Knežević's beautiful voice creates a single instrument combining all of the wondrous qualities of their individual sounds...and Sofija's lyrics surf effortlessly. Hearing Sofija sing, I cannot remember when I was so touched by a human voice.
I was in the studio when their composition Before, Now & After was recorded. I was instantly transformed by the eloquent essence of the lyric; Growing inspiration, continuing creation, ‘cause before, now & after, resonate within our hearts. We will find the future's hope in the present by learning from the past. Vulnerable is an incredibly astute and savvy description of the requirements of being in love. It is a mandate for selflessness, openness and dedication to another soul. This lyric should accompany every marriage license! And Let Me Ask You Something expresses the elation of eternal love. These three songs by Sofija and Elliot form a most delightful suite and I find myself listening to them as just that.
I am honored to perform on this recording and humbled by joining these incredible musicians. I have heard the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra many times with Dan Nimmer, Carlos Henriquez and Ali Jackson. They are a mighty force; always swinging and nuancing every beat and chord. I marvel at their versatility and artistry. Individually they are masters and inspired soloists, together they create the ultimate groove. Brad Mason keeps me running to the practice room. I am continually amazed by his inventiveness and his sound. It's fun to imagine the Mason household with young Brad and Elliot playing their crazy lines and listening to the heroes of this music. The ensemble on Passion Dance exemplifies their daring adventurous melodic concept. Joe Lovano has been one of my own heroes since we first met in 1977. His love of music, his vision and continued development is a vital inspiration and I hear his influence everywhere on every instrument. His presence on this recording is only fitting as Joe has long professed that love and wild 8th-notes go hand in hand. And Cyro Baptista's sounds and colors magnify the magical atmosphere of Before, Now & After.
As I alluded to in my first sentence...soon there will be three in the Mason/Knežević family. This is the heartbeat heard at the beginning and end of Then There Were 3. Music will welcome this child into a home full of love and care. The sounds of excited anticipation that I hear in this music will be the sounds of celebration on the next recording.
Sofija's lyric for Before, Now & After concludes with these words: Hearing light has changed us. We can finally, enable ourselves, to arrive at fulfillment. Hearing light...what a beautiful sentiment! The light from the sun and the stars has witnessed the entire human history. This light perhaps contains all of the knowledge needed for us to, as Sofija sings, attain fulfillment.... and love. If we can only hear the light............... -Tim Hagans
Song Description for radio
Before, Now & After – A contemporary unique soundscape, ranging from rubato to latin feel into swing - It’s not straight ahead all the way through and is over 10 minutes; hopefully a good choice for more progressive stations.
Caravan – A modern take on this standard – Back and forth from a 7/4 Latin groove and swing, strong and uplifting. Featuring Tim Hagans on trumpet.
Vulnerable– (Choice) Vocal – Spacious Bossa Nova based off of Lee Morgan’s Ceora. Relaxing romantic love song. - Widely accessible for straight-ahead jazz radio.
Passion Dance – Vocal – Inspired by McCoy Tyner, modern arrangement. Energetic, medium swing, exciting. Probably more appropriate for college radios.
& Then There Were <3 – (Choice) Trio with Tenor (Joe Lovano), Trombone (Elliot Mason) & Drums (Ali Jackson). Cute, bright, upbeat tune, based off of Monk’s Bright Mississippi - Short in length (3:22)
Resolution – (2nd Choice) Modern arrangement, very powerful intense performance from the band, featuring Joe Lovano on tenor sax.
In a Sentimental Mood - Vocal ballad, sweet, airy, original arrangement - Good length for radio - very accessible
Let Me Ask You Something – (1st Choice) The first minute is rubato voice and piano, gentle and soothing intro - The main song is passionate, swinging, elevating and uplifting. The ending fades.