Guitarist Dave Mason considers himself a well-kept secret.
Rock music nerds – the one who know their history – will recognize the name.
They may even be able to run through the résumé, such as his time with the legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Traffic, or the guitar work he did for the Rolling Stones (“Beggar’s Banquet”), George Harrison (“All Things Must Pass”) or Jimi Hendrix (“Electric Ladyland”).
There wasn’t anyone like Hendrix. And there still isn’t.
Guitarist Dave Mason, on working with Jimi Hendrix
For a vast majority, however, Mason’s name won’t ring any bells.
Until they hear “Feelin’ Alright” or “Only You Know And I Know.”
People recognize the songs, says Mason, who is gearing up for a tour with his latest project, Traffic Jam. The band plays Thursday, Jan. 7, at Tower Theatre.
The English rock group Traffic was known for incorporating jazz and improvisation into rock music.
Mason started the project in 2013 as a way to revisit some of the music he did with Traffic, the band he formed with Steve Winwood in 1967 while still a teenager. In its three years, the project has become a condensed musical biography, Mason says. The set list pulls from his earliest work and from his various solo records.
It showcases the depth of his career in a way fans won’t get when the guitarist returns in August opening for classic rock band Journey on the San Francisco Fest tour. The tour, which also features the Doobie Brothers, stops Aug. 28 at the Save Mart Center. Mason will play a truncated set.
The tour is great for the 69-year old guitarist, in that it will expose him to new, larger audiences. That’s important considering that playing live is where Mason’s career is these days, financially at least. He has no incentive to do anything else, he says.
“It has to be live because there is no record thing anymore.”
His last album “Future’s Past” was released in 2014. It was his first in almost a decade.
At that, Mason has a large cache of popular songs to bring to the live show. He’s lucky that way, he says.
But his career, the longevity of it, wasn’t built on luck. Mason can’t read or write music. He is completely self-taught. The fact that he is a guitarist of any notoriety at all he owes to “pure blind focus,” he says.
That’s the case to this day, he says. There have been periods when he forgot, when he lost his focus: “I had to get it back.”
Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam
- 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 7
- Tower Theater, 815 Olive Ave.
- Tickets: $45-$185
- 559-485-9050, www.towertheatrefresno.com