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Desmond Mason Playing & Producing Music from LA to KC

Kansas City jazz pianist and composer Desmond Mason is further proof of how local musicians fought and survived during the pandemic. These days, the world is waking up slowly and he is again at the forefront of performance. Helping to make Kansas City a vital hub of audio arts.

Desmond Mason

"I survived the slowdown by assistance from friends and organizations like the Midwest Music Foundation and the Charlotte Street Foundation," said Desmond. "Outside of playing jazz, I'm a music producer doing some nice (music) placements for companies (such as) Jägermeister."

Born in Los Angeles, Desmond’s first instrument was violin. “I was always enamored with the piano, I helped (someone) tune a few pianos in elementary school," said Mason. "I never took lessons. I just picked it up on my own, taught myself. Then after sixth grade, things happened in my life, I didn't pick up music (again) until high school.”

Desmond’s family moved to Kansas City in 1996. His grandmother was diagnosed with Cancer. She wanted to pass away in Kansas City, and now he’s thankful for his family’s move.

"I love how close-knit Kansas City’s music community is, the ease of getting work here," said Desmond. "There's a lot to love about KayCee! What’s not to like about Kansas City? It's a nice Midwest town."

Desmond’s musical flashpoint happened in 2005 or 2006. He stopped by a Baptist Church one day and he was fiddlin’ around on the piano. Dr. Nelson Johnson and his wife noticed the music and were mighty impressed. The couple paid for Desmond to receive classical piano training at UMKC’s Conservatory of Music. That led the young artist to a seminal stay at a local Jazz Camp. This was all before he entered college.

"(Pianist,) Joe Cartwright was the Piano Instructor at that camp. I was wet behind the ears! I improved a lot during that camp." said Desmond, "(when) Bobby Watson saw how hard I was working during the camp, he let me borrow a book called the Jazz Piano Book by Mark Levine. (Bobby) ended up autographing it for me and told me to keep it."

Desmond’s drive and determination began to grow. He learned the jazz standards listed in the Jazz Piano Book and began to dig into jazz history on his own.

"I immersed myself into the craft fully." said Desmond, "It's really been a solo journey, to improve on the piano, and as I said, I'm self-taught. So—fast forward (to) today after a lot of hard work, and I'm here!"

He notes the influence of pianists Bill Evans and Duke Ellington as reasons he decided to become a jazz musician. Between wearing out Bill's Live at the Village Vanguard and Duke's song, "Just Squeeze Me, Desmond is hooked.

"I'll never forget the moment I heard that Duke song," said Desmond. "I said to myself, ‘I have to play music like that someday.’" as the world wakes up, Desmond hopes that audiences begin to appreciate the music even more. He knows that he does.

"I don't want to sound like a snob, but I hope they put their cell phones away and stop talking (during the performances. I want people to) listen and enjoy the music,” said Desmond. "The pandemic has proven that it can all be taken away. I'd like to see the audience embrace the moment more and partake in the magic."

Desmond feels like he is doing exactly what he's supposed to be doing. Playing music in a town he has grown to love.

"I love the fact that I am living out my purpose. Providing music to the world that, moves them in a positive way," Desmond noted. "I'm just a man, out here doing the best I can for my daughter, while living out His purpose. If I'm doing that, I'm good. I hope others see me (in that) same way."

by Joe Dimino

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