In the realm of jazz-funk and fusion, “Mase” is one of the true greats. His work on Donald Byrd’s commercial breakthrough album, BLACK BYRD, and a series of successful “crossover” albums for Blue Note Records led to Harvey’s seminal work on Herbie Hancock’s million-seller HEAD HUNTERS, which contained the hit “Chameleon” (co-written by Mason) and his arrangement of Hancock’s ‘60s standard, “Watermelon Man.” This led to a string of recordings that now comprise Fusion 101 for the study of all aspiring drummers. Those performances include Grover Washington Jr.’s MISTER MAGIC, Bob James’ THREE (featuring “Westchester Lady”), Charles Earland’s LEAVING THIS PLANET, Patrice Rushen’s BEFORE THE DAWN, The Brecker Brothers’ self-titled debut album, Lee Ritenour’s CAPTAIN FINGERS, and John Klemmer’s TOUCH. When Latin rocker Carlos Santana recorded his first jazz album, THE SWING OF DELIGHT, Harvey was called. The icing on the cake for this phenomenal ‘70s output was his contribution to George Benson’s multiplatinum selling BREEZIN’ opus and two further Benson classics, IN FLIGHT and WEEKEND IN L.A.
In 1976, Harvey Mason signed a five-year deal with Clive Davis’ then-new and very progressive Arista Records as a solo artist. After SoulMusic.com’s recent reissue of the acclaimed drummer’s debut, MARCHING IN THE STREET, the label now focuses its attention on, perhaps, the musician’s biggest selling, most desirable, and easily most-sampled set, GROOVIN’ YOU. An all-star affair from 1979 with the likes of Ray Parker Jr. (guitar), Sheila E (percussion), David Foster (piano), Richard Tee (piano), Verdine White (bass), Phil Upchurch (guitar), Stanley Clarke (bass), Lee Ritenour (guitar), Mike Porcaro (bass) and Jim Gilstrap (vocals); just a few of the talented artists contributing to the album’s success.
The mellow rare groove shuffler “I’d Still Be There”, along with the equally funky “The Race” – a gospel tinged Philly-styled midtempo number sounding like a cross between Earth Wind & Fire and the Intruders in their prime – are two of the standouts, and are still timeless sounding. “Say It Again” sounds like a sibling of Quincy Jones’ “Ai No Corrida”, perhaps no coincidence as both feature Steve Lukather’s distinct guitar licks, although “Say It Again” came a full two years before Q recorded his disco standard. But perhaps the real gem in the set is the title track. As a single, the bass-slapping samba-infused dancer with its highly original “bomb bomb bomb…” hook, while registering on both the Billboard R&B and Dance Music listings, found its greatest success several years later when sampled by Gusto as the hook on “Disco’s Revenge”; reaching the top 10 of the UK pop charts in March 1996, and again peaking within the top 40 for a second time when reissued three years ago. (Album, edit and extended versions are included here).
The remainder of GROOVIN’ YOU was very much influenced by Mason’s fusion past: “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow”, “Never Give You Up” and the Grammy-nominated “Wave” (for Best Instrumental Arrangement and Best R&B Instrumental) are a trio of prime examples of the art form at its best. Although by the time we arrive at the album’s closer, “Kauai”, things have degenerated into 1970s sitcom music, and even with Ralph MacDonald’s and Bob James’ musicianship, I can’t help but want to reach for the remote to switch channels!
About the Writer
Lewis Dene has been involved in the many facets of music business for over 20 years. As a music journalist he has previously written for Blues & Soul, Record Collector, Music Week and the BBC, in the process compiling and/or writing liner notes for over 200 CDs (including a number for SoulMusic Records). Lewis currently consults for Kings Of Spins and is a resident DJ for Hed Kandi in America.