Elliot Mason in Montréal – trombone talk

Elliot Mason in Montréal

The University of Montréal Big Band welcomes trombonist Elliot Mason in Montréal with singer Sofija Knezevic Wednesday, November 2nd. A Berklee College of Music graduate, winner of many major contests, Elliot Mason has a solid reputation thanks to his flawless technique, his sense of improvisation, innovating harmonies as well as exceptional playing.

He’s played beside top soloists including Chick Corea, Ahmad Jamal, Randy Brecker, and many jazz orchestras including the Count Basie Orchestra, the Maria Schneider Orchestra and the Maynard Ferguson Big Bop Nouveau. It’s accompanied by the talented musicians of the University de Montréal Big Band, led by Ron Di Lauro, that he’ll be playing the Salle Claude-Champagne. Jazz singer Sofija Knezevic, Elliot Mason’s wife, is also taking part of the concert. Don’t miss it!

Claude Thibault : Elliot it’s a pleasure to connect with you in regards to your concert and collaboration with the University of Montréal Big Band concert led by Ron Di Lauro this coming Nov 2nd.

Elliot Mason : Hi Claude, it’s great to speak with you, and yes I’m very much looking forward to connecting and making music with this wonderful big band led by Ron Di Lauro.

Claude Thibault : Of course you already know Montréal and a bit of our jazz scene as you were with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz @ Lincoln Centre Orchestra’s gig at the Montreal Jazz Fest this summer.

Elliot Mason : Fortunately yes, I love the city, and it’s one of my favorite music festivals to perform at so I’m always excited when I have the opportunity to spend time and play music in Montreal.

Claude Thibault : Ron Di Lauro was referred to you by trumpeter Tim Hagan who said something like : If you need a trombone player that plays a lot of notes like me, Elliot Mason’s the man. Want to elaborate on that ?

Elliot Mason : Hah! Well.. Tim Hagans was on my last album (Before, Now & After) and actually wrote the liner notes for it too! My brother Brad is a trumpet player, and we’ve both been inspired by Tim’s original language/approach to improvising.

Claude Thibault : So going to the root of your music – your father being a trombonist – is there a piece of music in particular that
led you to the trombone or what is just its sound ?

Elliot Mason : Both my parents were jazz musicians; my father was a music educator who played trumpet, trombone and bass trumpet and my mother is a jazz vocalist and still singing. From as early as I can remember there was always jazz on in the house, if someone wasn’t listening to it, they were practicing it. For me, this created an overwhelming curiosity towards the extravagant metal objects in the forbidden room. When I was four years old I tried to play my dad’s Bach Mount Vernon bass trumpet while it was on it’s stand, this swiftly resulted in me getting my own student model trumpet. I was so young (seven years old) when I switched from trumpet to trombone that it was more my fathers decision than my own. Although playing the trombone can be a love/hate relationship at times, my love for the instrument has grows each time I play it.

Claude Thibault : What music will you be playing with the Big Band in Montreal ?

Elliot Mason : I will be joined by an amazing jazz vocalist, Sofija Knezevic. We hope to bring a fun but rich concert that encompasses an array of emotions, from Ellington to new originals. You can definitely expect a lot of meaningful shared conversations on stage, we are looking forward to making music with this very talented group of young musicians.

Claude Thibault : As an educator what’s your approach to teaching jazz ?

Elliot Mason : I like to have my students continually assess why they want to be a musician, what they want their audience to take away with them and the intent in their playing. I hope to inspire while focusing on the importance of a deeper emotional connection.

Claude Thibault : You probably have a few trombones but there’s one that looks like a trumpet and another one that has a special build. Can you describe them ?

Elliot Mason :  I’ve been fortunate to work with Mike Corrigan from Best American Craftsmen (B.A.C) for the last 10 years to create the Elliot Mason Signature Series Trombone. Our goal was to develop something new with a unique personalized perspective while capturing positive qualities from older horns. It has been quite a journey and a wonderful learning experience for me. I am very proud to be able to help design a trombone that is truly unique in its dimensions, with improved features that include: A multi-directional adjustable thumb rest, which enables you to completely adjust the horn to fit your hand. Also, the multiple threaded balancing counter weights, giving you the ability to dial in your balancing preferences, as well as redesigning the slide lock.  I had the daunting task of picking favorites that worked hand in hand together. From 40 different lead pipes, 20 different slides, multiple Bell flare options, all while mixing and matching multiple high quality metal options, such as: Nickel Silver, Yellow Brass, Gold Brass, Copper, Stainless Steel & Phosphor Bronze. The trumpet looking instrument is a bass trumpet, it’s very similar to a valve trombone with a slightly smaller bore size. It’s a pretty uncommon instrument that my father gravitated towards and something I revisited not too long after switching from trumpet to trombone.

Claude Thibault : How did you into the JALC Orchestra ? what a gig !

Elliot Mason : My journey is slightly different than most members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO). I didn’t grow up in the US, so unfortunately I didn’t come through the Essentially Ellington competition, or have an opportunity to perform with Wynton prior to my audition. The trombone chair was open for more than a year, I am told that both Chris Crenshaw and Vincent Gardner (the 2 full time trombonists in the band) put my name forward to audition, shortly after I was called for one week of concerts. I was then called back for another week and then for a month long tour, where we have more opportunities to solo and stretch. During the tour I was asked to join the orchestra for a season (a years contract), and I now just signed my 16th season with the band.

Claude Thibault : I was listening to your last project with Sofija Knezevic – Sofijazz, great sounds and voice/trombone licks. You’re
now married with two kids (congrats!)…I’m assuming that was a great personal and musical connection…

Elliot Mason : Sofija and myself have a wonderful musical connection. We enjoy talking about everything music all day long. The addition of our 2 children only deepens our love for life and the experiences that it has already brought us. Performing/composing jazz all starts from emotions, colors and feelings, there’s nothing more personal to draw from than you own life experiences.

Claude Thibault : What music do you listen to in you down time ?

Elliot Mason : Anything that is dripping in emotional connection. From Coltrane, Woody Shaw, Ahmad Jamal, Sonny Rollins, Monk, Freddie Hubbard, Chick Corea, Blossom Dearie, Nancy Wilson, Anita O’Day, Sarah Vaughn to Jobim, Joao Bosco, Elis Regina, and the list goes on and on!

Elliot Mason in Montréal with Université de Montréal Big Band
Ron Di Lauro, Director
With jazz singerSofija Knezevic
Wednesday November 2nd @ 7:30pm
Salle Claude-Champagne (220 Vincent d’Indy)

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Interview : Claude Thibault


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