James Mason’s “The Dance Of Life” is out now! Over three decades after “Rhythm Of Life”, James Mason rediscovered tapes with more recordings from the same late seventies period. “The Dance Of Life” (ft. Bernard Purdie on drums and Fonda Rae on backing vocals) and “Up Jump” are the first two tracks taken from the “Recollection Echo” album that Rush Hour are very proud to release on vinyl.
James Mason only made one album, that got acclaim years after it’s release. “Rhythm Of Life” became a soul-jazz cult classic, recorded in around 1978/79 with musicians such as Narada Michael Walden and Gene Torres, and featuring Clarice Taylor’s beautiful, characteristic vocals. The multi-instrumentalist recorded far more tracks around the release of “Rhythm Of Life”, but his music became out of fashion because musical trends shifted. Another album never arrived, and the recordings ended up in a box. Today the release of James Mason’s second album is finally set, and will be an collection of these forgotten tracks.
Because little remains known about his career after the release of his debut album, we had a few questions that we were lucky enough to ask. During two Skype sessions Mason happily shed some light on his early life as a musician, shared his feelings about the music he produced during his creative peak in the late seventies and early eighties and painted a frustration picture about the music industry he faced during that time.
The extensive interview will be published in our third printed House Of Music magazine, please find the introduction below…
In 1977 you had become a successful guitar player as a part of Roy Ayers’ band. How did you manage to get all those great musicians for “Rhythm Of Life” ? You’ve got a star line up there!
I had met Narada Michael Walden (drums) through Carlos Santana, because we opened for him one night with Roy Ayers’ band. Clarice Taylor (lead vocals) was recommended to me by a good friend, Gene Torres (bass) I met at a random gig and I had been playing together with Justo Almario (saxophone) for almost a year. When I asked all of these people to come into the studio to record for me, they were gracious enough to do so.
James Mason around the time
he recorded “Rhythm Of Life”
Despite the growth of appreciation for your first album over time, it can be considered a commercial failure when it was released. How come?
Basically I fell in between two categories: the jazz radio stations wouldn’t play my music because it was too funky and the R&B stations wouldn’t play it because it was too jazzy… I guess the business didn’t want me. I didn’t have the credentials nor the resume for a second record deal… One thing I have to thank the people of Chiarioscuro for, is that they weren’t like the rest of the music business. They gave me the smallest possible budget for “Rhythm Of Life”, but they didn’t tell me anything and stayed out of my way – that’s pretty much the only time that ever happened.
The track “Night Gruv” has attracted a lot of house and techno DJs to your music. How did that track come about?
“Night Gruv” was a kind of exercise. I had a student who was particularly skilled and had one of the first really elaborate home studios. Yamaha used to make a pretty sophisticated console that was modular: it had moving faders and everything else was virtual, it was like a mini Solid State logic board. He had four of those and wanted to learn how to use them a little better, so I brought my gear down to his studio and we produced the track there…
Interview: Roel de Boer
JAMES MASON – THE DANCE OF LIFE
(RH RSS 17)
1 The Dance Of Life
2 Up Jump