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Mason by Roger Mas Quintet

As if to make a statement about this quintet's intentions, Mason opens with Coltrane's "Moments Notice." It is a light, airy version, with drummer Juanma Nieto doing lots of cymbal work and the opening solo chorus by Roger Mas on Fender Rhodes, which gives the piece an entirely different feel than Coltrane's original. Jon Robles' tenor choruses aren't particularly fiery--no attempt to mimic Coltrane here--but he does run the range of the horn and make a nice statement.

The second piece, "Dana," is dark and moody, with Mas's piano doubled by Robles and guitarist Juame Llombart on the straight-eighths melody line. Nieto plays almost the entire piece on cymbals, adding to the atmospheric mood.

"Ionic" is a sort of languid summer afternoon piece, but that feel doesn't develop until after the long introduction by Nieto on drums. Mas enters with a set of block chords on the Rhodes, then the melody finally emerges, first by Mas and then by Robles and tenor player Enrique Oliver in unison on soprano and tenor sax. The piece drifts along for over 11 minutes, in no particular rush to get anywhere in particular.

The title cut, "Mason", is an up-tempo bop tune, using Mas's favored technique of covering the melody with multiple voices in unison. After choruses by Llombart on guitar and Mas on piano, Robles and Oliver solo freely together on tenors, creating a playful exchange of ideas.

"God & The Devil in The Land Of The Sun" disappoints, in that its title implies some tension, conflict, and struggle. Instead we have another feathery melodic exploration, despite some early promise with a nearly free jazz solo section in the beginning of the piece.

Mason is on the whole a quiet record, featuring mostly mellow explorations of rolling melodies. Not all the tunes are ballads, to be sure. But even on he pieces that move along, such as "Moments Notice" and "Mason", the quintet takes a light touch. Overall the work suggests a lazy day at the beach or a dog napping the hot afternoon away on the front porch of an old house. The musicians themselves sometimes sound as if they are drifting off for a nap. There are occasional bursts of energy, such as the simultaneous tenor solos on "Mason", and the middle section of "Wizard" which where drummer Nieto actually drives the quintent for a few choruses; but aside from these few spots, the overall effort is, well, a little sleepy.

One of Mas's favorite arranging techniques, featured prominently here, is stating the melody with multiple voices in unison. It gives the group's sound a kind of simplicity despite its size.

This is not to say that the record isn't pleasant; in particular Nieto's work keeps things interesting with lots of creative rhythmic patterns, especially on cymbals; rarely does he settle into a repetive groove. Mas's solos on Fender Rhodes are just what you would want: a nice mix of block chords and drifting runs. All in all an agreeable jazz record that would make a lovely accompaniment to a quiet, romantic dinner for two.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Roger Mas Quintet
  • CD Title: Mason
  • Genre: Contemporary Jazz / Modern
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Record Label: Fresh Sound New Talent
  • Tracks: Moments Notice, Dana, Ionic, Mason, God & The Devil in The Land Of The Sun, In Love In Vain, Wizard, Millenium Park
  • Musicians: Roger Mas (Fender Rhodes, piano), Jon Robles (tenor and soprano saxophones), Juame Llombart (guitar), Bori Albero (bass), Juanma Nieto (drums), special guest Enrique Oliver (tenor saxophone)
  • Rating: Three Stars
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