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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Influences and inspirations part 5. (Brent Mason)

Continuing this series on musicians ( not all guitar players mind you), that have and continue to influence me. I'm presenting these in no particular order of importance.
Country great and studio musician Brent Mason has been a big influence on me for a long time now. I remember seeing Brent on an old television music show on The Nashville Network back in 1988 or so. He was in the house band and he was just ripping it up. I was living in Calgary Alberta and teaching at Red Deer College during the week. I was getting really interested in country music in addition to my life long jazz study and when I heard Brent, it was another level of country guitar playing. 

Brent moved to Nashville from his home town of Van Wert, Ohio after high school and his first big break came when Chet Atkins heard him in a club and asked him to play on his album "Stayed Tune" with Earl Klugh, George Benson and Mark Knopfler. Not bad company to be with. After that musical introduction Brent started doing sessions and never looked back. He has played on hundreds of records with the likes of Alan Jackson,Randy Travis, Ricky Skaggs, Clint Black, George Jones, George Strait, Martina McBride, Dolly Parton, Neil Diamond, Brooks and Dunn, Faith Hill, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Vince Gill, Shania Twain.......

Brent Mason has taken what they call "Chicken Pickin'" to another level. Chicken picking came out of electric players wanting to incorporate bends like steel guitar players. Roy Nichols (Merle Haggard), Don Rich (Buck Owens and the Buckeroos) and Jerry Reed all played a part in his guitar style along with jazz guys like George Benson and Pat Martino, but he has made it all his own. 

Check out Brent in action playing his very well worn Tele.

I have been lifting Brent Mason solos for quite a while now and have found that they actually have become part of my overall guitar playing whether it's jazz or otherwise. I have always used hybrid picking (pick plus the other fingers and will quite often use my middle finger to pick some notes to a give them an accent. Brent uses a thumb pick and fingers so similar.

I had the chance to go down to Nashville and take an intense two hour plus lesson with Brent at his home. That was fantastic! Picking his brain about how he'd approach a dominant chord for instance. In doing so I got to know Brent and hung out with him a bit while I was there. Great guy and we still are in touch. 

Check out this interview with Brent. 
Brent also has a PRS signature model which is fantastic. This is that guitar in this interview.

Here he is demoing his sig PRS model and of course his awesome chops.

Some records to check out with Brent on them are George Jones "Cold Hard Truth", Any Alan Jackson record, Randy Travis "Always and Forever" and Ricky Skaggs "Life is a Journey". That's just a very small sampling of his brilliant guitar playing.

On a different note, I also had the chance to play with the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra for three concerts doing "Music of the Night". Songs from "Les Miserables", "Cats", "Phantom of the Opera", Jesus Christ Superstar" etc. Fantastic experience. 

Here is a picture of my rig setup. I played acoustic (Martin D-18) and electric (PRS Custom 24) and was so much fun. Hope to do it again.

That's all for now.