Canopus artist Harvey Mason is one of the most influential and in-demand drummers of the past fifty years. His early work with Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters set the template for crossover jazz/funk/fusion drumming, and his contemporary smooth-jazz quartet Fourplay has been one of the premier ensembles of the genre since its formation in 1991. Mason also boasts an extensive list of recording credits that range from orchestral music to hip-hop and rock. Canopus released the drummer’s workhorse 5.5×14 walnut/birch drum back in 2015, and this year the company is expanding Mason’s signature snare palette to include a tiny 6×10 stave walnut and a mammoth 10×14 ash/poplar. We were sent both to review, so let’s check them out.
6×10 Stave Walnut
Mason’s primary 5.5×14 signature snare was designed to deliver the dry, controlled sound the drummer often employs. That quick, focused tone is taken to another level with this 6×10 stave-walnut auxiliary snare. The shell is very thick (11.5mm), and the bearing edges are sharp. Combining those features with the small dimensions creates a tight, dense-sounding drum that personifies the word “pop.” The darker character of the walnut adds to the drum’s rich and musical tone. You can get a high-pitched electronica-type vibe by cranking the batter head, but I found that this drum had the most idiosyncratic voice when pitched in the low and medium registers. Tuned lower, there was an intriguing mix of chesty smack and laser-focused tone that sounded thick but didn’t take up too much space in the mix. If you play a lot of hip-hop or other genres that require a contained, sample-like snare tone that’s simultaneously tight and deep, this drum is exemplary.
On the opposite side of the spectrum sits Mason’s 10×14 ash/poplar snare. This drum has a 5.5mm ply shell with round bearing edges, so it’s designed to deliver warm, woody tones. It can be tuned low for supreme fatness or tightened higher for an old-school marching drum vibe. The snare response remained crisp and snappy at all tunings, and rimshots had a sharp, contemporary bite. Given its depth, I was surprised by how normal this drum sounded when tuned medium and higher. But it was the 10×14’s extended lower register that gave it an edge on almost any conventionally sized drum. When I tensioned the batter head just above slack and applied a 1“ muffling gel, the extra-deep ash/poplar shell produced some of the fattest, doughiest backbeats I’ve ever heard. You won’t need to rely on drum machine samples to achieve larger-than-life tones if you have this bad boy at your disposal.