Will Mason Ensemble -
Beams of the Huge Night
Beams Of The Huge Night, the debut album from the Will Mason Ensemble, was released on August 28, 2015. Written in a sparsely-populated part of northern Maine, the album explores how it feels to be isolated in a place that can inspire awe just as easily as unease. Since its release it has since been highly lauded, named an Album of the Year by Avant Music News, and called "an impressively balanced first statement from a bold new voice—full of confidence, free of ego" by The Free Jazz Collective.
In a sparsely-populated part of northern Maine, not far from the mountains of the Appalachian Trail, composer and drummer Will Mason secluded himself for eight weeks in a one-room cabin by a lake. He had no running water, electricity, internet, or phone service - only a pencil, manuscript paper, and a few books. For some, this would be unbearably ascetic, but for Mason, a Maine native, the rural, hermitic setting inspired a profound and singular collection of compositions.
"The place where music is made really matters - you can hear it in what results." said Mason, 26, who is currently pursuing a doctorate in music at Columbia University. "After I moved to New York, I worried my music was becoming a bit too stylish and urbane. It's very easy to get preoccupied thinking that you're expected to write in a certain way. I needed some time away to regain my accent, so to speak."
The pieces Mason wrote capture the elemental hugeness of nature. In six tracks spanning over 70 minutes, the composer's debut album Beams of the Huge Night explores how it feels to be isolated in a place that can inspire awe just as easily as unease. The music is baroquely detailed at times, at other times spare; sometimes menacing, sometimes meditative.
It's otherworldly music of immense complexity that nevertheless sounds seamless and coherent. Mason's sonic palette is informed as much by jazz avant-garde pioneers like Albert Ayler and Eric Dolphy as by contemporary concert music composers like Georg Friedrich Haas and György Ligeti. Color and texture are privileged, and lithe and sinuous grooves come into focus only to recede quickly back into the murk.
Much of the music is meticulously through-composed, but it also incorporates extensive improvisation by a band comprised of some of NYC's brightest young musicians. The unique instrumentation of the ensemble includes oboe (Stuart Breczinski), alto saxophone (Daniel Fisher-Lochhead), female voice (Nina Moffitt), two guitars (Travis Reuter and Andrew Smiley), upright bass (Dan Stein), and drums (Mason).
This same working band has been performing in NYC for over three years, garnering a devoted following and a reputation for gripping and tightly-executed live performances - often foregoing traditional jazz clubs and performing in rock venues and DIY spaces. After honing the material live, the band recorded over three days, and Mason worked for a month mixing with producer Alexander Overington (Rafiq Bhatia, Radiolab). The result is a record that more closely resembles an indie rock album in its attention to detail, which in turn renders the strange sound worlds Mason creates more intentional, more understandable, more accessible.
Press and News:
A Resonant Space: "Maine-born drummer Will Mason in a unique debut, with an unorthodox band (two guitars, oboe, alto sax, bass, drums, and wordless vocals) that mixes jazz, math-rock, minimalism and an occasionally heavy metal attitude."
Avant Music News: 5 stars - "At only 26, Mason...has a long career ahead of him. If Beams of the Huge Night is any example of what he can do, we have a lot to look forward to in coming years. A solid album of the year candidate."
All About Jazz: "a sprawling, ambitious project and Mason has a unique musical vision in the midst of a highly intricate creative process. He successfully seizes on the ambiances of positive and negative natural environments and conveys them with help of this empathetic and very talented group of musicians"