the nine days after easter

spike mason

“the nine days after easter” is the 9th album in my "10 albums in 10 years" project. It's also my first solo album, in that I play all of the instruments on it - saxophones, piano and drums.

Four years ago my friend Greg Dixon recorded me playing three hours of freely improvised piano solos in his studio. They were recorded on the night before we recorded the album "A Moment In Time". I didn’t know at that time what I would do with the tracks, but I knew that somehow they would become an album in the future.
Earlier this year, in my home studio, I spent the nine days after easter editing the piano improvisations into nine different forms. A few weeks later I recorded myself improvising along with the piano tracks on the drums. But I wasn’t listening to the piano while I was playing the drums - I just knew how long each track went for and then I just recorded myself playing freely improvised drums for that amount of time. After a little bit more editing these two parts together I then started recording the saxophone over the top. I chose to sometimes play pretty melodies along with the chords, or double a piano melody, and then sometimes I chose melodies that didn’t fit with the chords at all. Sometimes the saxophone melodies sort of fit the rhythms of the drums or the piano and sometimes they don’t. When I was recording the saxophone I just tried to play completely in the moment and as freely as I could. I hope you like what came out…

For 20yrs, since the creation of FREE FOR ALL and the release of my OXIMETRIC album, I have been thinking a lot about music that is not held together rhythmically or harmonically, but sonically. Freely improvised music that is played by an ensemble in the same sonic space and held together by intention, mood, dynamics, energy and timbre. Each member of the group plays with their own rhythmic pulse and harmony.
On this album the ensemble is just me…
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FLYING

spike mason & the sirius chamber ensemble

FLYING is the 8th album of mine to be released in my "10 albums in 10 years" project. The music for FLYING was inspired by a poem written by the Tasmanian poet Di Adams. The poem is about discovering you can fly - and so all of the pieces were written with the ideas of flight in mind.

The creative restriction I set on myself during this project was to compose and arrange all the music up in the air at 35,000 ft, away from any instruments, while flying back and forth to work each week.
This is the first time I've composed for, and recorded with, a chamber ensemble - so expect something very different from this recording. It's a coming together of composed orchestral sounds from the ensemble, and me improvising, weaving melodies in and out of the music.

I hope you enjoy it...
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henotic

spike mason

A few years ago I composed the music for the poet Joel McKerrow's album "These Wandering Feet".
The poetry and music together was lovely but a handful of friends asked me for the meditative music without the words. So I went back into the studio and remixed the album, adding some more saxophone melodies and improvisations... the result is this collection of instrumental songs.
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a moment in time

spike mason

The four of us spend our time playing, listening to, composing, recording, and thinking about jazz music.
Although we all spent our learning years playing together in Sydney, our professional careers have meant that we have moved to different cities around the world.
When we found out last year that our dates would align in Sydney again we jumped at the chance to record an album. In the months before our get-together we wrote 2 tunes each, thinking of each others musical strengths. We then emailed them to each other so we could learn them. On the day of the recording we met together and recorded the album in the traditional jazz way, playing live and simply capturing the sounds as they happened.
When we listened back we loved it, and so we're now releasing it to you!
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separate journeys

spike mason & the adjective noun

The separate journeys album has been a long time in coming. It was originally recorded 12 years ago at the Aphek studio that is owned by my friend and recording engineer Greg Dixon.

Back then, a group of my close musician friends and I would play weekly at a improvised free music event called FREE FOR ALL. The event had a strict no recording rule but I had wanted to capture some of the beautiful sounds that I was hearing each week. As it happened, Greg was just finishing off his studio and had asked me if I could bring some musicians in to record in it, and I did. My friend Barney Wakeford played piano, Andrew Lorien played trumpet, Aris Kartsonas played guitar and Gabe Hons played percussion. Even though I had also planned to record myself on saxophones for some reason we never got round to it.

I had wanted to capture spontaneous playing and so created some sonic soundscapey backing tracks – with textures and rhythms and chords and so on – that I played for the musos to respond to. (These backing tracks were never intended to be part of the album, they were just used to provide a link between the improvisations.) What I captured was their first take musical responses. I ended up with many hours of beautifully free music.

And then I lost the discs – for 10 years!

When I eventually found them, for I had simply put them in a silly place, I discovered the joy of the music all over again. The changes in music technology meant that I could mix the tracks in my own home studio. I began the long task of creating pieces out of the hundreds of musical snippets I had available. I also began learning some of the free melodies and playing them on saxophone in unison with the tracks so that the pieces would sound composed. It was a lot of fun, there were so many choices that could be made in an instant, and yet I had a lot of time to consider another path or process if I desired to change anything. Two more years of home studio fun and it was done.

spike mason :: saxophones, bass, vocals
barney wakeford :: piano
aris kartsonas :: guitar
andrew lorien :: trumpet
gabe hons :: percussion
clea crimson :: vocals on wales song
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widening circles

spike mason

With the release of Spike Mason's latest album, Widening Circles, it is evident that he is deliberately walking a unique musical path that leads to a place of reflection and meditation.

The album is a collection of gorgeous songs - rich with melody and mystery. The words, sung by the 2012 National Jazz Award winner Kristin Berardi, are an english translation of poems penned over a hundred years ago by the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke. The music is composed in a style that is a synergy of jazz and classical music, drawing both instrumentation and stylistic elements from both.

“The writing came slowly,” says Mason, “I worked for eight years on the music, and over that time the words have weaved their way into my life. I knew I couldn't get in the way of these poems - the music had to cushion and support the lyrics, all the way through. If I moved toward overpowering them, the structure and meaning would simply collapse.”

The music was played by an impressive ensemble of musicians. Alongside Mason's saxophones and Kristin's vocals are Henri Peipman on piano, Mark Lau on double bass, Gillian Smith on bassoon, and Gareth Lewis on trombone.

“We spent three days with the sound engineer Ross A'hern in a little studio on the central coast of New South Wales,” Mason continued. “We all stayed in the same hotel and ate breakfast at the same cafe each morning. It felt like a family holiday, very relaxing, and a great way to eliminate all of the usual daily distractions. That environment enabled us to simply concentrate on the music, it really helped to produce a beautiful recording.”

With self-assured, unpretentious, soothing and ever-moving compositions Mason forms the perfect bed for Rilke’s deep, God-seeking whispers. The opening line from one of the songs best describes the album - “In deep nights, I dig for you like treasure.” You will discover though, that Widening Circles shys away from the traditional gems: ruby and emerald choruses and the falsetto of diamantes. Instead, it moves into the strange strata of those semi-precious stones: the jasper of blue notes, the seductive amber of ambiguity, and the onyx of intimate darkness. Sensuous, spiritual, consoling. These songs will drip like hot wax into the carpet of your mind – they’re going to stay there for a long time!
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oximetric

spike mason

"The object is not the random juxtaposition of hostile pieces of music, but the creation of something entirely natural, despite its divergent pulses and harmonies. So even if the bass is playing one thing, the drums another, and the horns something else, the result is not a jumble of sounds but often a strange serenity, with points of convergence. Rather than being unrelentingly busy, the multiple layers tend towards discerning restraint, engendering a blend of beauty and tension."
John Shand - Sydney Morning Herald
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