Jake: I would label your latest CD most assuredly as a contemporary jazz project. With the business as it is these days, and a bit of how it’s been in the past, what in your eyes represents what’s going on in quote unquote Contemporary Jazz at this point in time, and where do you feel it might be going?
Mark: Contemporary jazz at this point in time covers such a broad spectrum of music, and musicians. It could be straight ahead jazz with more contemporary setting, or acoustic jazz played electrically, I could go on. I see the definition of jazz going back to the original players like Louis Armstrong. Jazz was always the most innovative music of the time, and I see a potential meaning for Contemporary Jazz being today’s version of innovative music. People for me in Contemporary Jazz that I am drawn to are people like Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, the real masters. These are the people that I aspire to in that they are great improvisers, master players, and innovators. To me, the sprit of “that” is what I see as Contemporary Jazz. And as far as where it goes, I just hope it goes to the highest level of human spirit communicating to human spirit through the medium of music, and the advancement of improvisation and techniques to help ones expression reach that level…this is certainly what I aspire to.
Jake: You’ve managed to be an active part of the scene for quite some time now. With the times as they are, what in your opinion is important and relevant in your eyes as far as creating, as well as sustaining a healthy career in music?
Mark: I think it’s important to be able to be creative in the moment, and to keep that kind of inspiration ongoing. You have to love music—you have to love wanting to play music. It goes way beyond financial. It’s a kernel of life that lets you just enjoyed playing. You “want” to get up and practice, you “want” to get better. You’re inspired to keep it going. Trying out new music and interacting are critical. You have to keep all of that at the forefront. Second thing is being able to superimpose all of that into the business. To be able to survive in this business, you have to be versatile, and be able to network yourself. Go to clubs, listen to people play, make friends, and be open to getting together and jamming. Be able to create a platform for a self so you don’t fall into, oh, there’s nothing happening. Start a band. All the heavyweights that we recognize in the business are very driven…they just never stop. Sometimes you’ll be doing some gigs you rather not be on, but that’s all about staying versatile. Don’t limit yourself to anything. I remember something that a great friend of mine as well as teacher and mentor, Jerry Coker, told me: “On any gig, you’re at your instrument, and you’re playing your instrument, and that’s where you always want to be.” I’ve never forgot that. He reminded me that whatever I’m doing, I can grow within that.
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