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Voice, Bass, Vibraphone: The Subtle Beauty of Vocalist Luba Mason’s ‘Triangle’

In a nod to her ties to Latin music – Mason is married to multi-Grammy winner and Latin music icon Ruben Blades — there are also renditions of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Waters of March” and “Inolvidable.”

It’s an impressive and tasteful performance, and Mason will stream the full live recording at 9 p.m. Nov. 20 on Broadway World. Tiered ticketing allow fans to stream the show or purchase a full access ticket to watch anytime, with the option of buying or downloading the CD.

We spoke with Mason a week earlier on the phone from her California home.

Billboard: I admit I’ve never heard an album quite like this. How would you describe your music?

Luba Mason: I call it a triangle because it’s a trio: Voice, vibraphone and bass. [That format] is something that hadn’t been done before. It’s a real minimalistic approach to music, which I think is refreshing. With so much music out there that’s over produced, it’s very simple.

Why a vibraphone, of all things?

I had a vibraphone instead of a piano in my last band, Mixtura. It just gives the music a whole different texture and I wanted to carry the sound over to this new project. Renato Neto, my producer [Prince’s longtime collaborator and keyboardist] suggested I downsize my band because I had a six-piece band and was having difficulties performing. He said, ‘Why don’t you do a trio?’ But everyone does piano, bass and voice. So he said, ‘why don’t you do vibraphone and bass.’ And there was silence, because I was already listening to it in my head. We actually performed in this format for almost a year to see how it would work. And we chose a repertoire to challenge the format.

After hearing so many quantized vocals lately, the purity of your voice is really impactful. It sounds like you didn’t touch the vocals at all.

I don’t touch the voice at all. Triangle is a live recording. I invited 50-60 people to the recording studio. We felt having the audience would give the recording a lift. If we screwed up we screwed up.

You’re married to Ruben Blades, who’s an icon for many Latin music lovers. How does he influence your music?

We’ve been together 22 years. We met when we did [Broadway show] The Capeman together. I played the mother of the boy murdered by The Capeman, Ruben played Salvador [the older version of The Capeman]. Oddly enough, I didn’t even know Ruben was a singer; I knew him as an actor. And I remember seeing him in rehearsals thinking, “Wow, this guy sings pretty good for an actor.” I had never heard Latin music before. It was out of my wheelhouse. I grew up in a Slovak household, the daughter of immigrants. Latin music was nowhere to be found until I met Ruben. And when we would go out, we would just sit and he would educate me on Latin music. All my albums have had a lot of Latin in them. Even Mixtura, my band, almost my entire band was Latin.

What is your emblematic track in this album?

One of my favorite songs is “Ticket to Ride.” I think people are responding because they know the song and when they hear our version they get the concept of the album. They say, ‘Oh, this is very minimalistic. This is a new version.” I take that as a real compliment. Because when you do covers you have to make sure you do the song justice; you can’t make it worse. I also did a heavy metal song called “Toxicity.” When people think heavy metal it’s loud, it’s a lot of drums, it’s a wall of sound. When they hear our down-sized version they’re almost shocked and they love it. Again, they get the concept of how we have minimalized arrangements of well-known songs.

I know recording with Ruben Blades is on your to-do list. In the meantime, though, does he critique your work, and if so, how do you handle it?

I welcome his comments. But Ruben is very smart to not offer his comments unless I ask [laughs]. But most of the time, I do ask him. And I look to him for a very honest opinion. I must say, he’s my biggest fan. But he’s also my biggest critic. He leaves me alone. But when I ask him for his opinion, I want it. So far, he’s been pretty positive. He’s very supportive.

Watch Luba Mason’s Triangle In Concert Here

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