The Norwich music man who inspired his two sons to become jazz legends
PUBLISHED: 11:39 10 May 2019 | UPDATED: 12:59 10 May 2019
They are a pair of Norwich men who have taken the world of jazz by storm. Their names are Brad and Elliot Mason and they just returned home from New York to honour and remember their dad Barry who has died at the age of 87.
If it wasn't for their father and their mother, vocalist Christine Vance, they may never have picked up musical instruments to become two of the most sought-after and respected jazz musicians in the business.
They play and teach across the world and work with some of the biggest names around.
Over the years I have written about Brad and Elliot but rarely about their father, Barry, who was not only their early mentor but also teacher to thousands of other children in local schools.
"He really enjoyed his work," said his wife Christine, also a much-loved singer.
"Here comes Mr Mason" the children would often shout as Barry arrived at schools to teach music and inspire the next generation to take an interest in the world of music which can change lives.
Barry was born in Cambridge where his family ran the legendary Fitzbillies Bakery. It was opened by Ernest and Arthur Mason in the 1920s with their demob money from the Great War. It is still going strong and as for the Chelsea Buns....they must be the best in the land.
Anyway...young Barry went to the Perse School but rather than going into the bakery business he was engulfed by the world of jazz. He was captivated by the sounds of Harry James and Johnny Dankworth.
He loved the trumpet and soon became a class act. So much so that in 1958 was asked to be part of a band playing on the Queen Mary as it sailed across the Atlantic and it gave him the opportunity to visit New York - and listen to the best jazz in the world.
When Barry returned home he played at Butlins in Skegness before heading for Norwich in the late 1960s to play for the wonderful Ken Stevens Band at the Samson & Hercules where he met the popular professional singer Norwich-born Christine Vance...and they fell in love.
They were a great double act. Her beautiful voice and his fine sounds. They entertained the people of East Anglia for many years.
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They married in the early 70s. Barry went on to play with the Trevor Copeman Band at the Norwood Rooms and at The Tower Ballroom at Great Yarmouth.
He switched from the trumpet to the trombone and went on to become a peripatetic teacher working at many schools while Christine continued to sing and delight her followers.
Brad was born in 1973. Elliot arrived during 1977. They grew up in a home full of music.
The boys almost picked up instruments as soon they soon as they could walk...and the future was mapped out for them thanks to encouragement from their parents and at the Hewett School where they were both pupils.
Brad with the trumpet and Elliot with the trombone.
From the age of five they were playing at local venues and as the years rolled by it became clear they were as exceptional talent winning the Daily Telegraph Jazz Musician of the Year Award.
It was a tough decision to move away from family and friends but for their careers to flourish they knew they had to move to New York and that's just what they did.
You've got to be good to make it in New York but those Mason boys proved they were among the best in the business. They play in the most famous venues not just in America but across the world.
Brad is now the musical director with Blood, Sweat & Tears and has toured the world with the likes of Diane Ross while Elliot, is currently an Artist in Residence at Berklee College of Music.
And that's just part of their busy, non-stop, lives.
It was Herbie Hancock who once asked Elliot: "How do you play the trombone like that?" It helped to have a dad like Barry.
He and the love of his life, top jazz singer Sofija Knezevic, they performed together at The Cottage in Thorpe St Andrew five years ago, have recently had a baby boy Maksim.
The music plays on....
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