Stonishingly trippy 70s spaced-out fantasies featuring Robert Mason. A dynamic mix between super groovy cosmic waves and solar funkadelic improvs. Before to form Stardrive Mason gained a solid musical background in composition (Julliard Schools / Princeton Electronic Music Center). Stardrive is the result of his own and very singular musical experiments / discoveries in contemporary electronic pop music.
A1 Rushes 4:10
A2 Strawberry Fields Forever 4:00
A3 Stardrive 9:45
B1 Dr. Tandem (Takes A Ride) 2:48
B2 Want To Take You Higher 3:22
B3 Everything At Once 6:15
B4 Intergalactic Trot 9:00
Robert Mason / synthesizer
Jaime Austria / bass
Michael Brecker / tenor & soprano saxophones
Bruce Ditmas / percussion
Steve Gadd / drums
Harvey Sarch / guitar
Harvey Sarch / guitar
The Intergalactic Sonic Travels of Robert Mason and His Synth
Stardrive – a name synonymous with a 70s jazz-rock fusion band, its self-titled album, and as the liner notes would have us believe, the “world’s first multi-voiced synthesizer that can be played like a real keyboard instrument….” This name also holds the frame to the only window allowing us a glimpse into the world of its creator; a man the internet knows very little about. Lucas Benjamin takes us along on his quest to uncovering the story behind an enigmatic keyboardist and inventor.
Robert Mason began his formal music education at 12 years old. By his early twenties, he had accumulated some impressive credentials as a keyboardist and composer, having studied at both the Mannes and Juilliard Schools in New York City, as well as the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio where he earned his bachelor’s degree in composition.
Opportunities brought Mason back to NYC, where he continued composing at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center and for a number of years later, he worked in the studio with electronic music pioneer Morton Subotnick at the New York University Electronic Music Workshop. There, he rubbed shoulders with innovative composers like Steve Reich and Paul Bley and expanded his repertoire to include mixed media concerts, rock band arrangements, collaborations with dance groups, and even a membership with Free Life Communications, a musicians’ cooperative formed amidst the revolutionary climate of the Vietnam War years.
Somewhere along the line, Mason outgrew the musical limitations of existing synthesizers available in the early 70s. These primitive monophonic synthesizers were not designed as instruments for performance, thereby confining their use largely to the studio. Keen to achieve more with a synthesizer, Mason set out to build his own. He started by making adjustments to the ARP 2500, including adding the option to use it as a polyphonic synth, a capability not yet possible at the time.
Two years and countless short circuits later, as recounted in the liner notes, “Stardrive” the synthesizer was unveiled together with a band of musicians assembled by Mason that bore the same name. Together, Stardrive became a pioneer in featuring a synthesizer as the lead instrument in live performances, supported by the more traditional sax, guitar and drums that typically make up a band.
As Mason described in Stardrive’s early promotional materials: “We are building toward a higher future, one in which music will be ultra-technological and yet truly human. The path is clear – man’s collective knowledge is immense and continues to expand – unless we make music with it, it will only serve itself and stifle our joy – and without this joy a future harmony of men and machines is impossible.”
Mason released two albums with Stardrive. The first, Intergalactic Trot, released in 1973 on Elektra, was accompanied by incredible jazz musicians such as Michael Brecker on the sax and Steve Gadd on the drums.
It features four original tracks and two spaced-out covers of The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” and Sly Stone’s “Want To Take You Higher”.