2015 Berklee Honorary Doctorate Recipient: Harvey Mason

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Harvey Mason

Harvey Mason

“Harvey Mason is probably the most recorded and most influential percussionist in this genre– Nathan East (legendary studio bassist)

What do songs such as “Westchester Lady,” “Chameleon,” and “Mister Magic” have in common? They all feature studio legend Harvey Mason on drums. This year, Berklee has chosen Harvey Mason as one of its honorary doctorate recipients. Aside from being a world class studio and touring drummer, he produces, arranges, and composes as well. Mason was a part of Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters group, and was on the legendary 1974 release, Head Hunters. Mason, or Mase as he is called, co-composed the main track, “Chameleon,” and re-arranged the classic standard, “Watermelon Man.” Mason can be heard on many different recordings in a variety of styles.

Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on February 22, 1947, Harvey William Mason gained an early interest in music; he began playing the drums when he was seven years old, before getting his own drum kit at the age of 16. He eventually ended up here in Boston, attending both Berklee College of Music and New England Conservatory on full scholarship, where he focused on performance, composition, arranging, percussion, and mallets. His teacher during that time was the legendary Vic Firth, who started the greatest drumstick company to ever exist.

Mason has recorded everything from jingles to religious albums, which all has led to his successful career in the recording industry. Over the years, he’s worked with many artists, including John Legend, Patrice Rushen, and Nancy Wilson.

As a solo artist, Mason has recorded many albums under his own name, including the trio album Trios, where he plays with 11 different pianists and eight different bassists. He was the co-founder of Fourplay in 1991, and bandmates Bob James (piano) and Nathan East (bass) have been at Mason’s side since the group was formed. Over the years, the band’s guitarists have varied, beginning with Lee Ritenour, followed by Larry Carlton, and now Chuck Loeb.

His grooves have had a great influence on hip-hop producers and DJs, and have been used as samples for Notorious BIG and P. Diddy, among others.

Between his solo work and his work with Fourplay, Mason has been nominated for 11 Grammy Awards, and has also won several awards in Modern Drummer‘s drum polls.

Some tracks featuring Mason:
Seal – Kiss from a Rose
John Legend – Save Room
George Benson – Breezin’
Grover Washington, Jr. – Mister Magic
Herbie Hancock and The Headhunters – Chameleon
Herbie Hancock and The Headhunters – Watermelon Man
Bob James – Westchester Lady

From live performances:
Actual Proof at Berklee
Harvey Mason Trio – If I Were A Bell
Fourplay Feat. Chaka Khan – Between The Sheets

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          February 10, 2018