Blue Engine Records, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s in-house record label, announces the upcoming release of jazz pianist and singular new voice Sean Mason’s debut album The Southern Suite. Today, the lead track “Closure” is released on all major streaming platforms alongside a music video that captures the dynamic live interplay of Mason’s quintet. The Southern Suite will be released on October 27, 2023, and is currently available for pre-order.
A rising star who’s earned praise and support from both Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Mason’s infectious, melodic compositions combine the Southern elegance of his native North Carolina with the urban sophistication of his current home, New York City. “Closure” finds Mason wrestling with the concept of duality, and he states that the composition represents “the end of a chapter. It communicates that I can break all the rules of compositional integrity and still honor my musical ancestors. It’s inclusive of elements of gospel, as well as a rhythm that’s rooted in swing and contrapuntal techniques of classical music. This track is a nod to all my influences and asserts that I won’t be constrained to one thing.”
The genesis of The Southern Suite came from the all-star quintet that Mason handpicked to accompany him on tour: Tony Glausi (trumpet), Chris Lewis (tenor saxophone), Felix Moseholm (bass), and Domo Branch (drums). Mason recalls, “It was when we met for the first rehearsal that we first realized how special of a group we really were. We had only played through the first two songs when we all stopped and just looked at each other and smiled.”
“This album is situated at the intersection of ‘renaissance’ and ‘street culture,’” explains Mason. “Each song targets an aspect of rebirth. And looking back, it was extremely difficult to break out of the culture of conformity that street culture imposed on my life, as education wasn’t a top priority within my community, but fashion and trends were. Yet, I fought that internal battle so that I could attend to the deeply rooted, internal love of ‘renaissance’ and allow for the necessary rebirth to take place.” The Southern Suite represents a resolution of these polar forces and is a bold statement of purpose from a generational talent well on his way to becoming a leading jazz composer of the era.
Born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, Mason took to the piano at the late age of 13, teaching himself by ear to play the music of his upbringing: gospel, soul, and rhythm and blues. He would eventually meet jazz legend Branford Marsalis, who was immediately taken by Mason’s musicality and recommended he move to New York. “I told my brother [Wynton Marsalis], ‘Be on the lookout for this kid,” Marsalis recalls. Upon relocating to New York City, Mason hit the ground running, quickly securing performances and residencies for his groups at some of the city’s more prestigious jazz clubs such as Dizzy’s and Smalls as well as sideman work with such luminaries as Wynton Marsalis, Catherine Russell, and many more. All the while, he attended the Juilliard School.
Mason would be featured on NPR’s influential multimedia show “Jazz Night In America” which chose him as one of five musicians for their “Youngbloods” series. He was also featured on Branford Marsalis’ film score for the highly acclaimed Netflix production of August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. In spring 2023, at Lincoln Center in collaboration with The Soapbox Presents, Mason premiered the large-scale work Chrome Valley, a multimedia piece setting his original music to the poetry of Mahogany L. Browne.
The Southern Suite Tracklist:
- Final Voyage
- One United
- Sean’s Theme
For more information please contact:
Justin Schmidt (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Michael Krumper (email@example.com)
at Missing Piece Group