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811 - Infinite Love by Masque

Masque is a Christian soul/R&B/jazz, mostly instrumentally oriented group from Chicago whose purpose is to spread God’s love to all people through music. Their music is released on Meek Records, one of Chicago's premiere gospel music labels. Masque is perhaps best summed up as gospel rooted in the Earth, Wind and Fire mid-tempo music ethic. Full of cool and hip grooves with cool synth patches, tasteful bass lines, great and joyous vocals on a few tunes, solid musicianship throughout with the emphasis always on fun. They’re not trying to set the musical world on fire, but they do play with a cohesiveness obviously born out of similar musical minds and plenty of rehearsal.

The two-disc set, 811 - Infinite Love, consists of one live concert disc and one disc of studio tracks. Disc one is full of nice tunes where different members of the band get a chance to stretch out a little, but not to the point of audience boredom. All of the soloists have a sense of how to keep the groove going while building their solos. For example, there is some great percussion, Tony Carpenter, versus bass, Timothy Fullerton, soloing on My Gift To You. They play off of each other and are obviously inspired by the other’s musicality. Pierre Walker’s piano solo on Launch Out (Into The Deep) is slow and sensuous. His sentiments are colored marvelously by saxophone and trumpet statements which follow. John Goldman’s sax and Brian Schwab’s trumpet don’t just pick up Walker’s tone, they continue to build on his initial ideas. Behind these three soloists the entire band builds throughout the chart and by the end the entire ensemble have constructed one of the nicest "whole band" statements ever.

The second disc is a short, 26-minute set comprising of seven tracks done in the studio and one track live. The group settles in a little more with less emphasis on the power and excitement they set up live. Vocals are again emphasized in occasional settings. The sound is much better on the studio cuts with the mixing being perfect. For example, Dave Onderdunk’s acoustic guitar solo shimmers in the studio cut of Soul Fiesta - as opposed to the trouble one has to clearly hear Brian Schwab’s muted trumpet solo on the live disc’s Change Me.

One special note needs to be made concerning Eva Fullerton's singing. She's really got what it takes and sings marvelously. It's too bad she's featured so rarely.

Perhaps the greatest thing this band does is have real fun while playing, and it’s conveyed through every beat they play. It’s not just that the individual members make the most of their solos, it’s really more about how the ensemble comes together to make unified statements and play as one, whether backing a soloist or just going through some cool melodies. You just can’t not smile while listening to Masque.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Masque
  • CD Title: 811 - Infinite Love
  • Genre: Soul / Funk Jazz
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Record Label: Meek Records
  • Rating: Four Stars
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