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Harvey Mason: With All My Heart

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Like an unadorned cardboard box that houses a jewel, the cover of drummer Harvey Mason’s latest album doesn’t let on about the hidden riches within. You’d never know it from looking at it, but With All My Heart is a program of trios including pianists Herbie Hancock, Hank Jones, Chick Corea, Kenny Barron, Cedar Walton, Fred Hersch, Brad Mehldau, Mulgrew Miller, Bob James, Monty Alexander and Dave Grusin, and bassists Charlie Haden, Ron Carter, Eddie Gomez, George Mraz, Larry Grenadier and Charnett Moffett. Supporting crews rarely come that all-star, yet, for some reason, Mason keeps the good news under wraps.

It’s all a shame really, because Mason’s recent smooth-jazz work, expertly professional though it may be, wouldn’t necessarily lead you to believe that he’s capable of delivering a quality mainstream jazz recording. He can. The consistently inspired performances here reestablish Mason as a serious player, as well as a first rate conceptualist and producer.

The album has the quality of a multilayered cake that starts out delicious yet keeps getting richer and more satisfying. Highlights aren’t hard to find: Hersch and Gomez’s hookup (during a first time musical encounter) on a driving “So Near, So Far,” Jones and Mraz’s stylish “Tess,” Walton and Carter’s old friend vibe on “Hindsight,” Hancock’s roiling reworking of his classic “Speak Like a Child,” among many others, but no track disappoints.

Through it all Mason excels by playing it cool, keeping his exceptional technique in service to the performance. It’s been decades since he worked with the likes of Erroll Garner and George Shearing, but Mason’s obviously still enamored with the piano trio.