Born and raised on New York’s Long Island, Raymond James Mason picked up the trombone at a young age and later moved to NYC to study both classical performance and jazz studies at NYU. After studying with luminaries such as Brian Lynch, Lenny Pickett, Alan Ferber, and Elliot Mason, Raymond found himself in high demand as an artist across a myriad of genres. He became a member of Brooklyn afrobeat heavyweight, Antibalas, which led him to become the in-house trombonist for Daptone and Dunham Records, lending his talents to recordings for the late Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, the late Charles Bradley, Menahan Street Band, Lee Fields & The Expressions, and many more. In addition to the aforementioned artists, Raymond has also performed and/or recorded with Alicia Keys, David Byrne, Randy Newman, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Arcade Fire, Meghan Trainor, Ed Sheeran, Janelle Monae, Lukas Graham, Nile Rodgers, Kevin Parker (Tame Impala), Maren Morris, Earth, Wind & Fire, Mark Ronson and many more. All the while, Raymond was learning from these masters and honing his own compositional and vocal skills, patiently waiting for his moment to step out in the spotlight.
A long-time friend and horn section partner of Dala Records’ founder Billy Aukstik, Raymond reached out to Billy one chilly October day in 2016 to set up a casual recording session. At the time, Billy was recording out of an old East Village brownstone basement, equipped only with a Tascam 388 8-track tape recorder and a few old ribbon microphones. Billy and Raymond assembled an all-star squad of musicians including Alex Chakour(Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones, Howard), Freddy DeBoe(Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones), Joe Harrison(Nick Hakim, Charles Bradley) and Morgan Price(Antibalas), and set out to record a couple of Mason’s new compositions. What came out of that session is the thunderous, emotional and raw debut of Raymond as a vocalist, songwriter and arranger.
On his debut single, Back When, Raymond utilizes the sounds of the Arp Omni bass synth, Farfisa organ, and fuzz guitar as his foundation and crafts a chilling song of lost opportunity and the world unknown. Drummer Freddy DeBoe’s steady yet crunchy feel on the drums merges the soul and hip-hop worlds and takes the song’s finale to a place reminiscent of Kevin Parker’s Tame Impala. On the flip side, No Clue, Raymond channels an even more intense feeling of lost love and speaks to the struggles of an unhealthy relationship. Guitarist Alex Chakour takes the spotlight here, using his fuzz tone to complement Raymond’s raw vocal performance and drive the song to an unhinged, almost garage-rock finish. Stay tuned for much more from this talented jack of all trades!