What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
Well, to tell you the truth, I’m proud of my entire career. And again, I feel amazed to have done such a lot and are happy and still looking forward to new things to do. I’m never satisfied and always looking for new things to do. I was talking to George Benson a few days ago. I played on a new record of his and I called him to tell him “let’s go out and play bebop.” He doesn’t do that but we had such a great time in the studio – it’s a sort of jazz CD where he sang and he played the guitar. It was so much fun. I said “George, let’s go play. We got to go play.” (Mimics Benson’s voice): “Yeah, yeah, man. OK, Let’s go play.” He was at the airport. He said: “I’ll call you back in a couple of days. We gotta go play.” That was about playing and having fun and doing what you want to do.
Last year I went to Europe with a band, Chuck Loeb and I – he’s now the guitarist in Fourplay – and we were off for the month of September and Nate (Nathan East) took a tour with Toto so we were looking for something to do and Chuck said: “let’s put a band together.” So we called everybody and went to Europe for two and a half weeks and toured with Til Bronner, Eric Marienthal and myself and we had a ball over there. It was great. So those are things I’m looking forward to – having all kinds of fun and looking to record a new record. I’ve been recording playing in Japan a few times for solo projects over there. My last solo project over there was with a band called The Chameleon Band. It was Patrice Rushen with Jimmy Haslip, Azar Lawrence and Bill Summers. We played a lot of music from the Herbie Hancock days. It was amazing so I’m looking to record The Chameleon Band with new material but with the basis of what we did back then but moving forward. So that’s the project I’m working on now and I’m trying to get a deal for the CD.
Another band of yours, Fourplay, are still going strong.
We started Fourplay 20 years ago. Bob (James) and I go back to the CTI days and he came to LA to record and asked me to put together a couple of bands for him, which I did. I called Lee Ritenour and Nate (Nathan East) and I had another band. He liked the band with Lee and Nate most and while we were recording he asked us “would you guys ever want to be in a band?” Everybody said it would be fun. Bob didn’t think it would ever happen but he was an executive at Warner’s at the time and went back and told (Warner’s exec) Mo Austin and Mo Austin immediately said “yes.” So within a very short order, they had a deal on the table and we were signed and went in the studio. The first record went platinum. Now 20 years later we’re still going even though we’ve had several guitar players – Lee (Ritenour) lasted six years and Larry Carlton lasted 13 years and now we’ve got Chuck (Loeb) who’s been with us just over a year. A different guitar player brings a different energy and Chuck’s brought a brand new energy to the band and the band’s flying real high as a matter of fact. We’re going to be in London in November.
Who’s been the most inspiring musician you’ve ever played or worked with?
Oh, what a question. Who is the most inspiring musician? You know, that’s so tough. I’ve been inspired by Quincy Jones, John Williams, by Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and so many people. There are so many great musicians I’ve played with but I just take inspiration primarily from music and not any particular individual; I just take inspiration from music and songs and being in music and playing music and interpreting music. That’s my life and it’s my greatest joy. I love playing all kinds of music: playing in an orchestral setting, playing in a country setting. I don’t care what it is, I just get great joy out of creating music and making it the best I possibly can. Over the last couple of years, I’ve adopted the moniker ‘Harvey Mason – The Chameleon.’ That really describes me. I like that moniker. It’s ironic that I was involved in a song called ‘Chameleon.’ So I’ll work with Streisand and then I’ll go work with Herbie or I’ll go work with McCoy (Tyner) or I’ll go and do a motion picture with John Williams, or I’ll go work with Placido Domingo and so on. That’s been my career. Yesterday I was recording music from the ’30s with a Billie Holiday type feeling. So chameleon is what really describes me and that’s probably what I take the greatest pride in. Not for being the loudest drummer, or the trickiest drummer or the flashiest drummer but being the most complete drummer and being able to play all kinds of music.
Is there any kind of music that you’re not keen to take part in or play?
Not really. I find it challenging to play everything, to tell you the truth. I’d like to play some more rock and roll. I’d never really been involved in a big rock and roll record so I’d like to do that. We’ll see.
Harvey Mason’s Arista albums are out now via Soulmusic.com