Jazz interview with jazz organist, songwriter, producer, educator Jake Mason. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Jake Mason: – I grew up outside of the main city area in the country. Lots of fresh air and time to tinker with instruments.
JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the organ? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the organ?
JM: – I began really getting into the Hammond Organ towards the end of my University music studies. At that time my main instrument was alto saxophone and while I still really love playing saxophone, the sound of the Hammond Organ grabbed me! I also love being involved in both the rhythm section and the front line something you can’t do on a saxophone. On the organ I am predominately self taught but have had lots of influence from the organ greats such as Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff, Larry Goldings and others.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
JM: – Part of playing the organ, just like most other instruments is constantly working and refining your sound. While most of this is done in a physical playing sense there is also working on your organ rig. I have built and modified many Leslie speakers (the speaker for the Hammond Organ) and through trial and error have found some great combinations to get the sound that I’m after. It can even at times get a little engulfing and you have to step back and regroup on the creative playing side.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
JM: – One of the big challenges when playing organ in an Organ Trio is maintaining rhythmic basslines in your left hand while improvising over the top in your right. I have spent lots of time working on this and freeing things up as much as possible while still holding down the groove.
JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?
JM: – For me I love variety! Sometimes I’m happy on a one or 2 chord groove but on another day I’ll want to mix it up with more colors and complicated chords.
JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
JM: – Soul always wins for me! You can theorize about an approach to playing or what the best composition should be, but really you only really know if something is good when you get in there, use your soul and bring it to life by playing it.
JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
JM: – A particular gig always pops into my memory when I reminisce about ‘great gigs’! It was 1am and we set up right in the middle of an already heavily packed dance floor. There was no PA just our instruments cranked and we played a nonstop instrumental funk set of an hour in amongst everyone dancing!
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
JM: – Its a big problem with the Jazz that it has an ‘old fashioned’ stigma about it. It’s up to us as todays performers to breath new life into it and give it a twist so its not just a carbon copy of 50 years ago.
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
JM: – Now this is a conversion that requires a really good bottle or 2 of red wine and a feast to dig in deep!
JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
JM: – Not a thing, I love it the way it is! Creating a musical short cut would upset the balance!
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
JM: – I’m really varied, I like to hear new music and get inspired when I hear something fresh and on the flipside I’m a sucker for something nostalgic. With the streaming revolution, I love the fact that I can find new music or inspiration via a single track instantly but also like I can dive into my record collection and put on a favorite LP or CD with liner notes and listen to the whole album.
JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
JM: – Drop me off in 1966 in the USA and I’ll take a road trip, so much great music happening then!
JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
JM: – What is your take on the future of Jazz? How can we keep it alive and take it to the next level?
JBN.S: – Thank you for answers. In my humble opinion, the jazz was, has remained and will remain alive and on account to the next level, this great jazz musicians will decide not to you!!!
Interview by Simon Sargsyan