Janette Mason

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Reviews of Janette Mason


23/01/2009 John Fordham

The Guardian, Friday 23 January 2009

Janette Mason
Alien Left Hand
Janette Mason is a session, studio and movie-score pianist, and one of the best. But she's also a jazz musician in every fibre, just like her close associate, the Anglophile American singer Lea Delaria. Mason came out of the session shadows in 2005 with her fine Din and Tonic album, and Alien Left Hand develops that set's cross-genre vision, infectious grooving, clever composing and audacious improvisation. Her powerful band includes saxophonist Julian Siegel and trumpeter Tom Arthurs, with Delaria on occasional vocals. On opener Four Wheel Drive, Mason's baroque piano line becomes increasingly funky against Josh Giunta's drumming, while The Blues Walked Out mixes assymmetrical rhythms, acoustic and organ sounds, and then driving, straightahead swing. A thrillingly arranged account of Eurhythmics' Sweet Dreams, two diaphanous ballads (Mae's Song, for Mason's late mother, and a Jarrettish approach to Leonard Bernstein's Some Other Time), some flying bebop (NY Cab Ride) and an equally breathless title track, over a racing left-hand ostinato, confirm the impression that the gifted Mason has done it again.


21/03/2008 John Fordham

John Fordham
Friday March 21, 2008
The Guardian
Review of Pizza Express wall to wall March 18, 2008

The etiquette of jazz cool dictates that raising an eyebrow counts as fulsome praise, and adding a nod of the head and a quiet "all right" borders on the orgasmic. Lea DeLaria, the New York jazz and Broadway singer, and sometime stand-up comic, ignores these regulations - squealing and chortling at her partners' contributions, arriving at most musical opportunities as if bursting through a swing door. She matches this fevered elation, however, with an imperious improvising technique, emotional intelligence and very sharp reflexes for what is unfolding around her.

DeLaria runs a monthly tribute night to great composers, and it was Thelonious Monk's turn this week. Compared with the Broadway songwriting legends whose romantic lyricism and lyrics she trenchantly re-invents, the spiky and unsentimental Monk is an altogether trickier proposition, though. DeLaria applied a rugged scat technique of riffy, brass-like sounds to a mid-tempo version of Blue Monk (with Abbey Lincoln's lyrics), and grew wilder and looser toward the close of an alternately percussive and languid account of I Mean You, though she did not always sound secure with the treacherous melody. The singer's Broadway-show experience came out in a captivating but straighter exploration of the ballad Ruby My Dear, after a delicate intro by DeLaria's gifted pianist and arranger Janette Mason.
Mason was full of understated magic all evening, her improvisations linking one unexpected motif to the next. Eventually, Mason and hard-bop tenor saxist Mornington Lockett drifted into what turned out to be one of the great accounts of Monk's famous Round Midnight, with Lockett erupting into multiphonic whoops out of languid long notes. It was the kind of out-of-nowhere surprise that even the most orthodox jazz always has up its sleeve.


01/06/0005 James Griffiths The Guardian

Janette Mason
Genuinely unpredictable ... Janette Mason

Few would argue that jazz virtuosity and a flair for spontaneous improvisation are two sides of the same coin. Still, a surprising number of accomplished players rely on the ingenious stringing together and reshuffling of tried and tested riffs and melodies. Not so Janette Mason, the UK-based pianist who has lent her talents to artists as diverse as Pulp and Robert Wyatt, and who is now stepping out as a band leader of pugnacious flair and genuine unpredictability.

Mason has only managed to recruit two of the nine musicians (bassist Dudley Phillips and drummer Simon Pearson) who played on her debut album Din and Tonic. The record's chief saxophonist, Mornington Lockett, is replaced by Julian Siegel, whose less lyrical approach finds counterbalance in his melodic resourcefulness and his propensity for virile swing and funk.

Presaged with a cheeky-sounding four-note melody, Urban Chant sets out Mason's wares as both composer and soloist. With its sun-dappled spaces, it is redolent of African township music, but Mason's quicksilver right hand and volcanic chordal accompaniment complicate matters delightfully. On this and other up-tempo tunes her conception is a spirited mix of McCoy Tyner's fervency and Herbie Hancock's flights of fancy, all delivered with gumption.

A wobbly organ chord ushers in a brand new piece called The Blues Walked Out, which soon teeters under the weight of a heavy piano ostinato and some obstreperous snare rolls from Pearson. It all then reaches an unexpectedly cool plateau, with wry Sonny Rollins-like playing by Siegel above a greasy swing rhythm. As with many of Mason's compositions, a crescendo isn't far away, and the tune climaxes as a bar-room stomp with lashings of sustain pedal. Mason's music is a brow-beating and monolithic at times, but it pulls no punches.


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