Dave Mason Jams into Landis


By Jeff Schwachter

A Columnist for the Grapevine Newspaper

Deep cuts, rearranged classics and career highlights in store Friday in Vineland with Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam.
Nine years after his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a founding member of the seminal 1960s band Traffic, Dave Mason finally took his “Traffic Jam” concert concept on the road.
“It was during the third quarter of 2013,” Mason says during a recent phone call from Arlington, VA, where he’s slated to perform a special concert with the Trucks Tedeschi Band (and others) honoring Joe Cocker, the late singer who had a huge hit with Mason’s song “Feelin’ Alright.”
Mason and his band—including Johnne Sambataro, Alvino Bennett and Tony Patler—were happy to discover that the show, which comes to Vineland’s Landis Theater on Friday, September 18, was a hit.
Mason and company now have themselves a long string of dates booked through 2016.
“It’s sort of developed into a musical travelogue of my whole life up until now,” says Mason. “We thought we would be on the road for a year or so, but it’s grown some legs.”
In May 2016 Mason will join up with the Doobie Brothers and Journey for his first big triple-bill U.S. tour in a while.
“It’s something I haven’t done in a while,” says Mason. “I’m pretty excited.”
Mason may be approaching 70, but he’s not just phoning the old Traffic songs in during his “Traffic Jam” shows.
“We started by throwing in some Traffic songs,” says Mason. “Some of them I’ve rearranged. I put ‘Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys’ in there as a slow blues, for instance. It goes over remarkably well. And then I’ve added a few more chords and other little things to ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy.’ Things like that.”
The show’s format, Mason says, has developed into a two-part concert. The first half features mainly Traffic songs, along with visuals and vintage video clips to aid Mason’s telling of his own life story as well as of the “times” during which his tunes were birthed. A brief intermission follows and then Mason and his band return to play songs from Mason’s 45-year solo career.
The U.K.-born Mason’s musical journey (he’s lived in the States since 1969) commenced with the January 1970 release of his debut solo album, Alone Together, and would go on, following his years with Traffic, to include stints with Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Fleetwood Mac and the Rolling Stones.
He will, however, forever be linked to one of the most potent and popular songs to come out of the late 1960s—Jimi Hendrix’s version of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” a song Mason would eventually record on his own, years after playing on Hendrix’s classic version.
Mason says he and his friend Hendrix were hanging out at a friend’s apartment in 1968 and heard the song for the first time, with its sparse, acoustic arrangement, ghostly three-chord progression and the wailing of Dylan’s harmonica.
“They had Bob Dylan’s [just-released] John Wesley Harding album,” he says. “And everyone was like, ‘Well, we have to hear the new Dylan album!’ So I wound up hearing the song at the same time [Hendrix] did.”
A few days later Mason, Hendrix and drummer Mitch Mitchell were in the studio when Hendrix said he wanted to record the song. Only Hendrix, says Mason, knew how the record would turn out.
“Something sparked in Jimi’s head when he heard [‘Watchtower’],” recalls Mason. “Look, there are a lot of incredibly good guitar players—a lot. But there are none as creative as him. He was just so innovative with what he did and what he did in the studio with that song. I think that’s what stands him apart to this day.”
At Friday night’s Landis Theater show, expect to hear deep Traffic cuts such as “Medicated Goo,” along with highlights from Mason’s solo career, such as “Only You Know and I Know,” “We Just Disagree,” “Just a Song,” and, of course, “Watchtower.”
“It’s actually the most requested song of anything I’ve ever done over the years from the audience,” says Mason. “It’s never left the set.”
Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam
Friday, September 18, 8 p.m.
(Doors: 6:30 p.m.), $44-$49
Landis Theater, 830 E. Landis Ave., Vineland
856-794-4100. www.landistheater.com

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