Traffic Jam is bringing some of Traffic's greatest hits back to the stage. The four-piece band consists of frontman Dave Mason, Johnne Sambataro on guitar and vocals, Alvino Bennett on the drums, and keyboardist Tony Patle.
Although Mason was inducted into the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame as one of the founding members of Traffic, he had a tenuous relationship with the band and struggled to find creative common ground with Steve Winwood. Mason had left the band by the time its debut album, Mr. Fantasy, was released in 1967. He then rejoined in 1968 during the recording of the self-titled follow-up, only to leave the band again. Traffic—Winwood, Jim Capaldi, and Chris Wood— carried on without him, expanding to include other musicians and releasing five more albums over the next six years.
After his breakup with Traffic in '68, Mason left England and moved to Los Angeles, where he found success as a solo artist and studio musician, collaborating with George Harrison, Gram Parsons, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix, among other icons of the era.
Over a career spanning five decades, the prolific songwriter has released more than two dozen albums and counting. Mason's most recent EP, Future's Past, came out just last year.
The EP includes a new version of "Dear Mr. Fantasy," one of Traffic's first hits. Utterly recognizable, the track off Traffic's debut album features some of the catchiest guitar licks that the original quartet ever recorded.
The depth of creativity and ingenuity that Mason discovered during Traffic's early years had a profound impact on him as a musician, and his Traffic Jam tour is clearly an effort to revitalize that musical energy.
"I think that it is important to keep the legacy of four young men from the heartland of England and their contribution to contemporary music," Mason says on his website.
This isn't the first time Mason toyed with the idea of of forming a Traffic reunion band. When asked about the possibility of Traffic getting back together, in a 2013 interview with the Nashville Scene, Mason responded, "You're asking the wrong guy. I mean, it'd be great. I wish the two of us [Winwood and Mason] could just go out, and you don't have to call it Traffic. Call it, you know, Playing in Traffic. Or Dodging Traffic...and go out and do it as a retrospective. Maybe invite a couple of other people who are huge fans. That would be really cool. I think it would be a great show, and I think people would love it. But it's down to Stevie, 'cause the creative differences all spilled over into some bizarre personal animosity somewhere. That's the part I don't get."
With Traffic Jam, Mason has finally brought this idea to fruition, even if he couldn't convince Steve Winwood to join him on tour. The other two founding members, Wood and Capaldi, passed away in 1983 and 2005, respectively.
The Traffic Jam concerts include commentary from Mason in between performances. Part question-and-answer session, part rock 'n' roll history lesson, the topics of conversation in past shows have included his formative years in the English countryside, the rustic cottage where many of Traffic's first songs were written, and his friendship with Jimi Hendrix, who Mason collaborated with on the Experience's version of "All Along the Watchtower." Traffic Jam's rendition of this classic Bob Dylan tune should be worth the price of admission alone.
Dave Mason's Traffic Jam
7:30 pm doors. Thursday, Nov. 12
835 NW Wall St.